Home>Discussions>PLUMBING>Micro Zoning 3rd Floor Heating
2 posts / 0 new
Last post
Micro Zoning 3rd Floor Heating

Hello TOH Forum,
I am about to begin a 3rd floor renovation to my 200 year old historic home in northern New Jersey. There is no attic as we have cathedral ceilings. Winters are cold and I typically burn 250 gallons of oil per month during the winter (currently no insulation in ceiling or walls). The area will be completely gutted and as part of the renovation, I should be able to access the area underneath the flooring pretty easily. The entire space is a rectangle and is ~31'x25' with 3 bedrooms and a bath with a large closet (see attached floor plan with bath in upper left corner). Each room is ~11'x13'. This floor is primarily for guests and will see limited use except for one bedroom and the bath.

I am going to place radiators underneath the windows in each of the room. Working on the calculation currently based on it being on the 3rd floor (heat rising) and using sprayed in closed cell insulation (R-value ~ 40 in walls and higher in ceiling) due to the cathedral ceiling being unable to vent and fairly decent windows. We want symmetry so depending on # of radiators needed, we will put them in front of one, two or three of the windows for each bedroom. Contemplating going radiant heat in the floor in the bath as we will be pulling up all the flooring to use as patch work for restoring the other areas. Either that or one large radiator/towel warmer. I like the Myson Select Series as they are slimmer than the old cast iron but don't take away too much of the old world charm and are fairly cost effective.

My furnace is an oil burner System 2000 installed by the previous owner in 2009, so it's pretty efficient. It currently has 2 zones. The first is for heating the house and the second is for heating hot water for use. It is expandable and is located in the basement.

So that's the background. Since the area will see minimal use and the house is old, I would like to have control, ultimately down to the room level. Optimal would have programmable thermostat in each of the 4 rooms. In a dream world, this would also be able to be controlled remotely via iPhone. Currently I am reviewing 4 options:

Option 1: Run radiator in parallel using TRV's control temperature from each radiator.
Option 2: Run each room in parallel but with the radiators in each room in series using a TRV's to control the temperature of the room. Possibly using remote sensor or remote adjuster.
Option 3: Using a manifold, with thermostat in each room to control manifold valves as well as furnace.
Option 4: Run each room as it's own zone directly off furnace.

Goal is to help keep costs down but with the price of oil, a few hundred dollars would easily pay off in one year if I can get better heating control.

What are the thoughts on the best way to tackle this? Looking at cost to install, effectiveness and ease of controlling temperature and cost to heat. This project would be done by a contractor, as it's too big and too new to handle as DIY. Help with models/part numbers appreciated. Also willing to skimp on small things as long as I can upgrade at a later date (i.e. thermostats).

Thanks in advance,

Re: Micro Zoning 3rd Floor Heating


After reading the content of your excellent post I would say that you already have a good grasp of the essentials and have a good idea of what you need from this project.

I would not be overly concerned about "micromanaging" the zone/room controls beyond a certain point (overkill) ; I would strongly recommend you focus on GETTING AN IMPENETRABLE ENVELOPE of the building exterior walls (as much as is humanly possible) so that all the exterior walls are absolutely packed with blown-in insulation, and every glass window has double-pane glass---I would even think of eliminating any windows that are not needed or are redundant---these two items alone (insulation/double pane windows) will go very far in minimizing the amount of gallons you have to burn each heating season--- many homeowners ignore these 2 very important items & often concentrate on mechanical gizmos that cost lots of money & have very little return in fuel savings and comfortable heat for the occupants.

You have a boiler there, not a furnace---if you value your life, never mention "furnace" to heating industry persons who are involved in hydronic heating (hot water heating systems).

You should also focus on FINDING THE RIGHT HYDRONICS CONSULTANT who will document your wishes & desires, will come back to you with a plan for the installation, with valid alterations to your original plan if they believe there is a better way to do it, and quote you a price---most important, they will refer you to the hydronic contractor & crew who will actually do the work according to the agreed-upon plan.

I think you have enough of a grasp of the different hot water heating installations to be able to know when you've connected with the right heating consulting firm/heating parts distributor and the price is reasonable; however, ALWAYS GET AT LEAST 3 DIFFERENT PLANS FROM 3 DIFFERENT HYDRONICS FIRMS---as you can probably deduce, each plan will have a different price tag, will differ moderately or extensively from the other plans, etc.

We're talking here perhaps about finding a heating contractor that specializes in hydronic hot water heating systems AND is several steps up from someone installing boilers, making routine repairs to heating systems, etc., but doesn't have the training, background and experience in designing & installing a hydronic system that's appropriate, energy efficient, and most of all, comfortably warm for the occupants---I think THIS will be your most difficult task---how can you be sure that the firm that you hire is going to do a good job, and deliver the system that you and your home needs.

Frankly, I don't know---the System 2000 has a good reputation and is an excellent foundation upon which to build the rest of your system; you say the ever-increasing price of oil is a concern---is natural gas not available in your area??

My recommendation in view of my limited knowledge of how the residential/commercial hydronics heating industry is structured would be for you to initially concentrate on the wholesale heating parts supply distributors in your part of NJ---you happen to live within a stone's throw of lots of manufacturers of hydronic equipment and hot water heating is a big industry in NY & NJ because the more populous parts of NJ just to the east of you have a lot of people, lots of demand for heating equipment---the wholesale heating parts distributors have to accomodate the firms and contractors that are installing those hydronic systems that are in demand or are successful, and thus must stock the appropriate hydronic items in their warehouses.

Therefore, if you do some networking and footwork to contact the NJ wholesale distributors and tell them what you want, they can refer you to the appropriate qualified contractors who are installing these systems that are in demand, and work well----get a list of heating supply distributors, mail or email them a detailed description of the hydronics system you want (as you did in the above post), request that they refer you and your plan to a contractor/installer who will be a good fit for what you need; it may be also advisable to visit some of these distributors in person, or talk to them by phone to eventually assure yourself that you're talking to someone who is qualified to do the job.

Concentrate on the MOST POPULACE parts of NJ, just to the east of Mendham--the major wholesale parts distributors always are situated in the larger cities; also check out the wholesale parts distribs in Morristown, Madison, Dover, Newark, Harrison & East Orange.

Therefore, Google a number of phases until you get the firms that you want to contact in your general area:

Google "New Jersey Plumbing and Heating Suppliers"
Google "Hydronic Heating Parts & Equipment in Essex County NJ"
Google "Hydronic Heating System Consultants in Essex County NJ"
Google " --------------------------------------------> Union County NJ"
Google " -------------------------------------------> Morris County NJ"

Also check out Thermco, Clifton, NJ, Altherm Englewood, NJ, Focus Sales Middlesex NJ, Gattich Soft, Englewood, NJ, Nov-ell Sales Corp Hawthorne NJ; the site below (PM Mag) is deeply involved with hydronics heating and the people and firms that are in the industry;scroll down to the bottom of their page to get a list of resces; at the top of their page, enter into their search box "articles by John Siegenthaler"; and after that enter "Articles by Dan Houlihan to get articles by two famous heating engineers, both from the NJ/NY area who have a world-wide reputation; also Google "The Glitch & the Fix" for hydronics issues by John Siegenthaler' if you can get a hold of either of these two giants ---do it!

Caleffi is an Italian hydronics conglomerate that has lots of good hydronics diagrams on their website; Figure 3-7,3-8 Zone Valves; Fig. 317 shows Thermostatic Radiator Valve manifolds; Fig 8-2 illustrates fin-tube baseboard & zoning.

Another factor I strongly recommend is contacting an outfit that critically evaluates heating contractors (and lots of other specialties) relying on feedback from customers WHO HAVE ALREADY USED THE CONTRACTOR, and are thus in a position to offer a grade of A (very good contractor), all the way down to F (a very bad contractor); such outfits like Angie's List have been positively received by homeowners who are in the difficult position of having to hire a contractor, but know nothing about his/her job performance with previous customers---I've had good luck with Angie's List; they charge $8/month or $25/year for membership, but it's money well spent---they would have a list of scores of contractors in your area; some performed very well for their customer and got A ratings, others did a so-so job and got C; some did a lousy job and got a D or an F---I think the list is invaluable.


Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.