Radiant Heat Fights Allergies with Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating (Part I)

hydrotherm hydronic heating for build an eco-friendly, allergy-free house project

Hydrotherm hydronic heating installers arrive for the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-free House project

The Build And Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House (BEAH) project had stage 1, the ‘fit out’, installation for hydronic heating: 2 floors, one cottage done a while back. Everything had been planned with the usual military precision and attention to detail: It was a busy two days! And to top it off we had Jacob Maggs, our masterfully-EMF aware electrician on the site working his magic, re-jigging wires, lowering the electromagnetic fields to-be around the bedroom (that’s another post in itself. I do not have EHS (Electromagnetic Sensitivity), however, I’ve included research on building to low EMF standards in my book, Freedom: an Eco-friendly, Allergy-free Home… While also taking precautions with the BEAH project. For now, go to EI Wellspring for the safest information on building low-EMF style.)

Yes, I sent all of our workers’ the doctor’s letter just like always when dealing with companies, businesses and tradespeople.

The Hydrotherm crew arrived like a bunch of scent-free superheroes: no fragrance; no sprays.

Hydrotherm hydronics

Hydrotherm had specified my medical condition’s needs in the actual quote so everyone on the job new about it. Along with AESSRA ‘How to be Fragrance-free’ brochures, I supplied spray cans of ‘QV Naked’ spray deodorant (with the choice of aluminium or not) or a roll on, one for each crew member. (Hot tip: for tradies who leave it there, put their initials on the lid) I like it when workers take it home with them, like a gift. It’s a lovely thought knowing you may have changed someones preferences from chemical irritants, like fragrance, to less-toxic products.

As an example, here’s what I got in writing from one of the managers via email:

“We are happy to comply with all of your needs regarding your respiratory system. As discussed, we are happy to use silicone provided by yourself. We would anticipate a maximum of 6 tubes needed but that would be dependent on the type of joists used.”

With this on our final quote:

Written on our quote, after explaining my 'allergies' to fragrance

Written on our quote, after explaining my ‘allergies’ to fragrance

We had 6 tubes of Selley’s 3 in 1 silicone (lasts up to 5 years) ready for on the day; however, we have been changing the silicone on any external areas to Sikaflex, then going over it with mortar, due to the need to have all external holes in the building watertight as possible. (The Selley’s tested safe for breathing, the Sikaflex, not. However, it’s used on the external part of the building so should be fine.)

The Hydrotherm guys were obsessionally organised, which I found pleasantly unusual in the tradie world…  And they travel out to wherever you are. And did I say they clean up after themselves?

Hydronic heating for allergies

Organisation, plus!

But First!

Hydronic Heating as a Source of Warmth for the Chemically-Sensitive Patient

My treating Allergist and Immunologist, the renowned Allergist and Immunologist, Dr Colin Little, in Mt. Waverly, Victoria, Australia, has a lovely, warm clinic with hydronic heating panels installed.

They have a fragrance free policy there so it’s actually a comfy place, where you can relax waiting for your appointment, especially when it’s cold outside, and still be able to breathe comfortably.

Fragrance free door sign. Dr Little: 324 Stephensons Rd Mount Waverley, VIC 3149

Fragrance Free Door Sign: Dr Little’s Rooms: 324 Stephensons Rd
Mount Waverley, VIC 3149

One of the information sheets he gave me when I tested positive to burnt gas, said: “Hydronic Heating, coil or panels”, are the safest heating option for those sensitive to chemicals or with respiratory illness!

Of course, being a renter, I’d struggled with heating for years. As we all often do.

All of the rentals I’ve stayed in over the last 10 years, I could use the air-conditioning but I struggled to find a heater that didn’t hurt to breathe around, failing with:

  • oil column heaters (the enamel or plastic dials); in an old one once, it was the oil itself that was a problem;
  • convection panel (burnt dust);
  • the Nobo convection heater (well famed in MCS circles) (perhaps I had the wrong model but something inside burnt fumes making me ill for years each time I tried it. No smell just chemicals burning off, it was like the layer that it comes with they recommend you burn off for 24 hours first);
  • And, the worst, I tried the old-school coil heaters that burn dust continually…

…burning dust was an awful problem for me, setting of the diagnosed Alodynia on the left side of my face, so painful (little did I know, inhaling ‘mustiness’  and having MaCRONS (sinus strep infection) was/is my main sinus problem!)

For years I struggled with the only two types of heating I could use: the split system (so long as it was newish with clean filters (no apple caichen (scented) technology (‘ambient scenting’ from Kensington or Fuji (Fuji’s come in a foil packet and are optional to install.) on low heat so as not to cause outgassing in the foil-covered rental; however, I’ve also found these machines to sometimes be mouldy; last, and what I’m left with at the moment: the small Arlec air heaters, replaced each year as they collect dust in the fans. It was a nightmare thinking back on it; and I don’t know why anyone with an illness related to chemical sensitivity, asthma or any respiratory disorder wouldn’t choose hydronic heating, given the opportunity.

“It’s not as expensive as you might think; and if you go with the right company, like Hydrotherm, you’ll get a great price.” ~ Michellina van Loder, CIRS patient

I’ve spent many winters in pain from various heaters outgassing noxious chemicals to which testing shows I’m sensitive to, causing my sinuses to feel like they’re screaming in pain; yet not wanting to turn the heating off due to ice-cold Melbourne nights, I’d put up with it. (I’m also sensitive to breathing cold air: my sinuses and that old pain in my head that gets set off from mould exposure. You know it’s freezing here, on the coast of Victoria, Australia, right?)

Testing

Medical ‘Allergy Sublingual’ type testing showed:

  • ‘burnt gas’, from gas heating and cooking;
  • ‘formaldehyde’ often found in new heaters, paints that are not powder-coated
  • formaldehyde found in PM2.5 particles in wood-smoke, sometimes from burning off or most likely, wood-fire heaters polluting the outside air making its way, rudely, inside.

What is Hydronic Heating, Exactly?

From Bosche:

Hydronic heating is a method of heating utilising heated water to distribute warmth throughout a building. The benefits of hydronic heating Hydronic heating offers superior comfort, operational efficiency, and silent operation. It is also known to minimise the negative effects to allergy and asthma sufferers caused by the circulation of airborne particles, such as pollen and dust, that occur with alternative heating technologies employing blown air.

Why we Chose Hydronic Heating?

So I can see why the good doctor gives his allergic and chemically sensitive patients information sheets on Hydronic heating seeing it is the safest type of heating system for people who are immune compromised, have CIRS, MCS, ME, CFS, Asthma or any respiratory illness where irritants can impede on existing health conditions and diseases:

  • because the panels (or under floor coils) don’t collect dust, burning it when switched on, often inflaming airways;
  • clean air;
  • no VOCs gives the hydronic system the five-star advantage over all other heating systems;
  • they don’t exacerbate chronic illness like burning gas, twin-system air-conditioners—that can, and often are, mould contaminated—and hydronic heating doesn’t dry out the air or the eyes;
  • They can’t go mouldy or collect cellulose to make mould;
  • The heat dispensed from the panels is an ambient, warm heat, emanating from powder-coated panels. It cannot pick up unwanted scents or fragrances from visitors, like heaters than have air intake and outtake vents and filters do;

Even EI Wellspring, a reputable US source often used with confidence by downunders says:

“A hydronic system is one where water carries the heat and coolness, instead of using air.  Hydronic heating is common in Canada, the northeast United States and Scandinavia.  Such a system can be designed to be completely free of noise, moving air and EMF, but they are costly.
 
A boiler (which can be a regular water heater in some cases) heats up the water, which is pumped around by a small circulation pump.  If desired, the boiler can be located in a shed outside the house, even away from the house.  The boiler can then use either electricity or gas (propane or natural gas).  If using gas, it is best to locate the shed down wind from the house.
 
The hot water coming into the house can either circulate through a slab floor (in-floor heat), through radiators, or go through a heat-exchanger mounted in a conventional forced-air system.  When retrofitting an existing house, upgrading an existing forced-air system may be the most economical choice.

US Information on MCS Friendly Hydronic Heating

“A special type of radiator can both be used to heat and cool a room.  Burnham Hydronics (1-888-432-8887) makes the Duo-Rad, which requires a fan to run continuously.  Edwards Engineering (1-800-526-5201, www.edwards-eng.com) makes the very sleek looking Valance system, which does not require any fan at all.  The author is not aware of any EI person who has actually used either of these two systems
If using radiators, make sure they have a baked-on powder coating.  Painted enamel and simple cast iron radiators are apparently not well tolerated…”

Read more on Heating and Cooling from EI Wellspring

Hydrotherm’s panels are powder-coated.

If the House is an Eco-House with Passive-heating and Passive-cooling, does it really need Hydronic Heating?

Yes, but you need to be active in using it each day, it still fits in well with a passively heated and cooled house because on the colder, no-sun days, it will remain on 22c; and on sunny winter days, it may need to go on 12c to keep the house toasty warm. Of course the front of the house, the north is warmer due to its design but the southern ends of the house can get cold, freezing at night. I know, I’ve had to sleep there a few nights… By having a heating system I can afford to run, I can heat the whole house therefore lowering the risk of mould growing due to cold air in the form of moisture vapour [Think fog, mist, humidity levels!)

Hydrotherm Part I: Radiant Heat Fights Allergies with Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating

Hydrotherm Part II: Why Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating is a Breath of Fresh Air

Hydrotherm Part III: Hydrotherm Hydronic heating for our Eco-friendly, Allergy Free House

Hydrotherm Contact Details

Hydrotherm: Hydronic Heating

Greenheat: Hydronic Heating

Hydrotherm Instagram

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Virtual Eco-House Tour

All readers, welcome to our home:

My safe, allergy-free and eco-friendly home. Ready for the tour we promised? Take your shoes off. Only socks or Japanese slippers allowed. 

“Would you like a cup of coffee or tea? Do you take sugar? Soy milk okay? A herb from the garden perhaps?”

[Miche pops the kettle on.]

“Why, thank you for going fragrance-free. I really appreciate it; and it’s so lovely to have you here to visit! xx “

“Here,” Miche says while holding out a bright flowing fabric with a flock of exotic birds scattered across it (or a white Tyvek suit–your choice), “Pop on this will you? It’s just to protect the furniture from any washing powder or fragrance residue on your clothes.”

It’s an exciting day: Because today, I warmly, virtually invite you into our home by taking you all on a Virtual EcoHouse Tour, using the latest technology in architectural drawings for our ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House‘ Project, These were done by Eco Draftsperson, and our friend, Quin Wyatt; he’s known as an ‘EcoDesigner’ around the Peninsula Coast (I am on Victoria’s Surf Coast near Queenscliff but I was just 1 hour by boat away at Portsea: the air and seaweed, beaches are mostly the same. Except we have marshland that rubber boots won’t help you with, it sinks that much, which makes it a perfect haven for birds. So it an actual Marine National Park with a few different things going on: Army training, hooded plovers, Mud Island (sink in sand there for sure!) all types of bird and seagrass.

black-footed-albatross-86579_1280

Black footed albatross (image source: Pixabay)

Why we are taking so long to build:

Our house is smaller, which is why it took another 6 months to get started because of the re-sizing. Plus all the testing of the products. Then we had to wait on Boral Bricks by 3 months, luckily, Ashley from Boral in Geelong made up for this by giving me a heap of research about mould and bricks and how to remove the horrid stuff. We are supposed to be at lockup stage by now. Been told hold ups are normal on this business. Issue is we need to be locked up before the rains come.

It was downsized by 10 square metres, which is like the size of an average room. This took a load of the cost of the build. The front balcony was rejigged so that it didn’t form part of the indoor area by intruding into the house, which would have looked more contemporary modern; instead it’s just your old-school 6 post balcony. This way if there’s ever a leak it won’t flood into the house, it ill run straight off the balcony. Smart thinking, Slobodan <3 And, it still works as an eave for the passive heating and cooling effect.

Passive Design Coupled with Ideal Orientation

A good ecologically designed home, utilises orientation because the way the house faces, which is to the north, plays an enormous part in passively heating and cooling the home. So long as the occupants are active in summer by closing blinds and roof-window blinds early in the morning, closing off any rooms that catch warmth on days of high heat; only opening up again at night, putting on fans and opening windows strategically positioned to cross-ventilate, which will also allow thermal lag to cool your house off, you too can design an eco-home.

Ideally, the home should be placed so the living areas faces north (south if you’re in the US, I think, correct me if I am wrong) to take advantage of the winter sun. The eaves overhang 90 centimetres to block out the higher-in-the-sky summer sun, while allowing the lower-in-the-sky winter sun into the house, warming the tiles or polished concrete floor.

Because the Zenit thermally-broken, double-glazed uPVC windows are designed to go low to the floor, the sun hits the concrete warming it in winter while the concrete acts as the thermal mass (unless you cover it with carpet or something else, which acts as insulation or has rubber in it that will impede on this all-important function). Coupled with the Hydrotherm Hydronic panel heating, the most allergy-friendly heating possible, the house will always be a warm home. On sunny winter days we won’t need heating as the sun heating the thermal mass will be enough, even at night when heat from the slab is released via thermal lag, or if closed up, the thermal lag will still be keeping the place warm as the temperature drops outside. But more on the other eco-friendly elements that help facilitate a truly efficient home later…

The cottage is in the far right hand corner. The Garage is seperate, with a breeze-way as specified as what Interviewee, Katryn Treat said when I asked her what she would do differently if building again,

The cottage is in the far right hand corner. The Garage is seperate, with a breeze-way as specified as what Interviewee, Katryn Treat said when I asked her what she would do differently if building again,

The little cottage out back, the one for fragrance-free visitors to stay in, had to lose its bathroom, which is no big deal: there are two inside the house. Both run on filtered rain water supplied by EcoBright Tanks (all stainless steel! No plastic lining!), then town water if the tanks become dry. (If you have advice on tanks please share below.) The toilet is fully ecologically minded, with it’s own 2000-litre-rainwater tank too. We’ve got this tank covered with Reece plumbing in Drysdale. And our plumbing was done by KLM Plumbing whose team went fragrance-free; I highly recommend their services if you’re on the Surf Coast or the Bellarine Peninsula of Victoria, Australia!

We also have an outdoor shower: visitors Beware: Come fragrance free or go nude and wash outside in the garden of Eden.

Nah, just kidding, the outdoor shower is for the dog and beach visits!

:0

Yes, we will give our composting toilet back to Natural Event at the end of the build. It’s still working out really well feeding the soil of the neighbour’s apricot tree, I’m sure.

One positive that came out of halving the garage is that now we have all this space between the cottage and garage. Is the extra room for gardening and paving areas: bonsai garden, outdoor shower. This space is a medium sized courtyard that’s surrounded on three sides by the brick fence separating ours and our neighbours property and the brick walls of each out-building.

Oh, and the other brilliant thing about kids flying the coop is the room for a proper yoga room and gymnasium.

Now just notice where the sun falls and the time of the year and day. This will show how it’s positioned for good orientation taking advatage of the full northerly aspect so on winter days the sub comes right on in. Quin Wyatt did a remarkable job designing and then re-designeing this house to suit my needs. 

We did this re-jigging of the house via Skype last winter when I was horribly ill from Pullaria mould and possibly the mould in the room with the water-damaged ceiling. [Update: I’ve since been diagnosed with CIRS, so it’s not just Pullaria mould that was the problem.) So I wasn’t exactly coherent but luckily for me Quin and Dan and I worked it out: We have an unusual front balcony, which I will show you all later. Welcome to my prototype for an Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly House!

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A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia

A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia. This is not our kitchen just a generic image of the design. Pretty cool, hey?

If you take a look at the sun study done for June, which is mid-winter, and since 2012 and living in two water damaged buildings (WDB), I’ve suffered every winter since due to outdoor moulds; now when I was in mid-winter of last year, sick as I’ve ever been (before CIRS diagnose), I took impeccable comfort: the type that just wraps you in cottonwool, allowing you to feel everything is going to be alright, that type of comfort, when looking at these photos. The sun coming through the window. Picturing myself in our safe house. Knowing all is going to be just fine.

On another positive, it’s near close to all bricks and mortar now, and I’m busy, busy, busy, testing and organising samples, asking, sometimes hounding for MSDS and product contents. I’m finding there are two business models:’ don’t share a thing’ and ‘here you go’ when it comes to building products and materials… especially MSDS or proof of composition of materials of VOC release per cubic metre. Also, Australia is lacking in ecological products; but we do have access to some incredible European products.

So this is the roofline of the house:

The front of the 'Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House' project

The front of the ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House’ project, which I am also writing a ‘How to’ Book about the Process itself

I know you are picking up the Japanese them now. Do you like the design so far? Ant questions on passive design?

More

Where we are getting the doors: Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Modified Shoji Doors

All the posts on ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House

Quin Wyatt Building Designers: Created This House Around my Allergies and our Environment!

Stainless Steel Rainwater Tanks: EcoBright Tanks (I’ve a post coming up on rainwater tanks (the 3 companies in Australia who sell them!) and on catchment and delivery systems to the bathrooms. Full Eco Housing ideas coming up.

Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating, the best heating for people with chemical sensitivities or allergies (also the best price out of many quotes)

Natural Event Portable Compositing Toilets (no head splitting chemicals)

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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