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

Hydrotherm’s Rough in Process

It took two days to complete the ‘rough in’ process, the plumbers basically ran, from the Bosche boiler, 25 inch pink Rehau piping, into 20 down to 16 into the chrome copper, where it comes out the wall, where it meets chrome and brass pipes going into the walls and outside, ready for the boiler. The black pipe usually used for plumbing can’t be used with hydronic because it’s transparent; whereas, the pink is not. The pipe is insulated with black foam. Pink Noggins were put in so they have something to screw into when they come back for the ‘fit out’. That’s when the real stuff happens!

For now it’s been pressurised with most of the water the system will ever need.

Hydrotherm pressurising the hydronic heating system

In the next part of the fit out: After the hydronic heating panels are connected to the noggins, a central control panel is placed in the main living area. This is where the temperature can be set, on a timer, or automatically switched off once the house is warm enough: this is where the beauty of the system comes in: the water in the panels and pipes stays hot, aka free heating. They can run on both gas and electric. Ours has a Bosch boiler, which runs on gas and is installed outside, away from any opening windows—being gas and all. Don’t want that wafting through the windows, inside.

The panels can be painted in powder coat to match any of the Dulux colour range. It’s cheaper to go all white though. Although, to match the bright pink/red feature wall in my office, I’d love a fire-engine red panel; I’m still thinking about the $110 extra that it would cost, and how it wont fit into the project’s budget.

Our pipes were located at 1100mm off the ground.

And this is our boiler:

Download (PDF, 1.04MB)

Are they Mould Free?

In reality, there are no filters to change or clean, which means there’s no place for mould to grow: dust, mould’s main food source, cannot congregate. But what I like best about these heaters is the fact that once paid for—because of the installation, they do cost more than most heating systems upfront—they begin to pay for themselves as time goes on until eventually, you get your heating for free. Now, if you were to go solar, harnessing the sun’s energy, with one of those awesome Tesla batteries, you’d be off to a free start much sooner.

How to Clean the Panels

Just use a dust collecting cloth like Sabco or even use the dust brush on your vacuum. Pretty simple!

How do they guarantee it won’t leak?

Rehau fittings are 99.9% guaranteed not to leak.

Other Guarantees:

7 years on the panels; 7 years on the installation. The boiler is a five year guarantee. If something did leak, Hydrotherm would go back to the company and insurance would cover water damage–or the prevention of it, rather.

It’s a sealed system that doesn’t need replenishing. Only half a glass of condensation is released per year into the atmosphere. That half glass condensation is released into the building envelope over the course of a year. That’s it for adding moisture to the building.

Because our house is so well insulated with breathing walls, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Our First and Last stop was Hydrotherm

But we did get three quotes, Hydrotherm being the first and only showroom we went to. It was back in 2011, planning stage and my health declined from around that time so I wasn’t up to going to showrooms without going to the hassle of making fragrance free appointments.

Our Only Challenge on the Day, Solved by Hydrotherm 

The front, north facing (sunny side), has a room somewhat like an entrance room but it’s closed in, like an air-lock. There’s the front door, then, leading out into the house, is a glass wall made from a large window joined by a Zenit glass external ‘lift and slide, tilt and turn door‘ (I’ll show you these in detail later, in my 7 part window series)—used internally—to create a room that’s not only an air-lock but will be used to prevent unwanted mould exposures, chemical exposures and allergic reactions to items bought into the living spaces.). Everything stops right there before coming into the house. There will be no exposures in my home-to-be!

air lock front entrance room

Air lock front entrance room ~ or if you’re fragrance free you can use the middle door :)

We didn’t include a hydronic panel because it’s north-facing. We thought the sun would heat this room just fine. You see, based on ‘passive heating’ design where the north-facing windows are floor to ceiling, while the eaves come out 600 mm to block the higher-in-the-sky summer sun yet allowing in the lower-in-the-sky winter sun, it stays warm when it’s sunny even on a cold day. But what about those Melbourne days, weeks even, where we don’t have any sun? I mean this is a room where someone may have to change clothes before being allowed in to shower, if they are contaminated with fragrances, or, worse, mould… (Yeah, I know, better get some blinds, lol.)

build an eco-friendly house


It wasn’t really a problem, because even though there wasn’t room for a panel—it seemed, as the room has glass on three sides—and a wall to wall cupboard on one, where was there room?

One of the Hydrotherm crew phoned into the office with the specs of a small corner and we were fitted for a vertical panel heater like this one:

Why we used Hydrotherm

For us, the most difficult part was making sure all the materials were health friendly for myself—meaning that they are VOC, petrochemical and of course, mould free. Plus, I had to know exactly which chemicals would be used for installation, and if it were possible to use our chemicals, which we had tested for safety; but most of all, I needed the tradespeople to go fragrance-free (See first post on how to organise this.). Now, if that laundry list of wants is not long enough, we needed the best price! Hydrotherm came to the party! They beat other hydronic companies by up to half in one of the quotes, and were willing to match any cheaper price. Considering the panels are powder coated stainless steel metal and the towel racks (which act as bathroom heaters as well), chrome.

Towel rack and hydronic heater

Towel rack and hydronic heater

Download (PDF, 794KB)

A Clean Building Site is a Good Start to a Mould-free Home

Building a mould free home means that you must keep the wall cavities and floors dust and debris free. This way mould has been robbed of a food source, lessening the chance of it growing; and if the wall cavities and roof trusses are kept dry there will be no mould. When it came to any mess from our hydronic fit out, Hydrotherm cleaned up after the job. (This is not just a tradies job, it’s yours: a building site for a CIRS patient must be kept impeccably clean!)

Chemicals Used

We used ‘Sellys 3 in 1 Silicone’: very low VOC. However, when Hydrotherm come back we’ll have a better silicone, as far as being water-tight goes: Sikaflex. Just stay far away until it’s dry. And, as always, test for your own suitability on a clean piece of tile, left out overnight, then bought inside if you don’t have symptoms with it. I’m finding there are products I’m not good with wet but fine with once dry. And I’d rather a silicone that keeps water out, right? Plus we used mortar on the outside of any hole protruding through the building.

On instagram I posted about this Camel Rock Yoga mat Mandala in the back room, the retreat. Southside. All glass windows. Wicked view. Andrew, the manager from Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating, pointed out how this room could be used for Bikram, hot yoga. This is going to be a thing. Thanks, Andrew.

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.

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?)


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.

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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