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.

McMansions for People with MCS and CIRS

Why is this house taking so long?

It’s taking us a an extended amount of time, more than 12 months now, to build our Allergy-free House. A good friend who built their own safe house, and has now recovered, told us,

“Take your time. It’s better to get everything right, rather than make a mistake causing your house to be intolerable and unliveable!” 

Seems we have taken this to the extreme as I’ve been watching houses go up in our area that only take 6 months to completion. Houses without eaves, I might add!!!

The first hold up: Back at the draft stage, with Eco Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt, we had our house plans re-sized and scaled down—due to budget restraints—the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project became around 10 square metres smaller. When Dan’s finance manager said to us, “It looks like a bloody McMansion!” and, “Spend a few k now; and save 100 k off the price of the build.”, we were like, “Sure.” Seriously, I moved out of the city, away from big houses with no eaves badly positioned on small blocks of land so that I could build a home to recover my health in; an ecological, chemical free, passively heated and cooled, with hydronic heating for those nights when the bones are sore. (For the allergy-friendly heating, we used a company called Hydrotherm; I have a post coming up next about the installation and excellent service we received from this company in regards to the system itself and how awesome they were with all my allergies.) But while all this was happening I was in a mouldy house of horrors with an ERMI of 17. And another mouldy house before that. I’m in a much better place now.


Our home is our castle; but it’s certainly not a resource guzzling McMansion! It never was but it was mahoosive for only two people. (Child left the nest.)

So we made the castle smaller.

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-freindly house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia ~ Virtual house photo by, Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt

This made our heating cheaper also. Thanks, Hydrotherm. (Not sponsored.)

So we had the pleasure of trying out Quin’s new software, focusing on some more eco-friendly and money saving aspects of the house, and we got to see the above sun studies in all it’s virtualness; and the house and cottage on a smaller scale.

(These photos mean a lot to me: 12 months ago, I was flat in bed with what looked like SEID/CFS/ME: I was stuck in a mouldy house, laying in bed with 10 day headaches. Looking at these future-safe-house photos just forced me to focus on a positive future. Thanks, Quin.

Oh, how I needed the sun on my skin at a time when I was stuck indoors: sick when I stayed inside; and sick if I went outside. But these photos represented the future to me. (You can read a blog post I wrote for Quin, here.)

The future is now; and it’s good. The headaches are gone; and I have sun on my skin. In the house, most days.)

Our house has come along, stumbling and fumbling along. Many headaches&amp—of the metaphorical kind—and a zillion worries of immense proportions. I’m at a place now where I cannot rent a house due to severe chemical sensitivity caused by CIRS; at place where if I have to I will sleep in a van in the state forests with my boyfriend’s dog, Bella; a place between here and now.

Sitting in my upstairs #bathroom in the morning sun while work goes on around me. I love how, even though we had water come into the property and we’ve had to replace wood panels because of mould, and we need to get #barwonrestorationservices in with #HEPA #Scrubbers before putting up the walls, my health, headaches and other symptoms ease of tremendously whenever I visit. And there is dust and mud all around the place! It’s been a tough #winter for me but as soon as I’m in #freshair and #sunshine, I just know ? that the #buildanecofriendlyallergyfreehome project is going to be all right. #pristinecarpentry and #zenitwindows were here today to help get this place to #lockup Dream bathroom: here I come??

A photo posted by Michellina (@michellinaoutofthelabyrinth) on

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.

Our Shoji Doors from ‘Shoji Screens and Doors’

(This post has been updated to reflect the accuracy of the shoji door material, Opal Rice, which is actually made from fibreglass not rice paper! Although it certainly does look like rice paper.)

Shoji ~ Traditionally a sliding screen door or wall made of latticed screen and paper used to screen an area, thus making it private.

Today, I’m going to show you a part of our house-to-be that I’m not only excited about but also epically grateful for: our custom made Shoji Doors, which have been constructed, sealed with a suitable sealant MIROTEC WB 8060—which was tested by me—and are ready and waiting at the Shoji Screens and Doors factory: where they have been since December last year!

(The hold up: We were waiting on our Augusta Boral Limestone bricks) from Boral in Geelong since Christmas; you see, since they’ve had to come from WA, they actually had no code in Boral’s system so got lost in business bureaucracy. Hence the plastic around the house to protect it from rain and mould entering. Our bricks cannot go up until our European made PVCu Double-Glazed, Thermally-Broken Windows from Zenit Windows are installed. So the arrival of the Limestone bricks and the soon-to-arrive windows are synchronistic enough to have us moving forwards and onwards! Apparently, in the building industry, there are always going to be hold-ups, I’m told by, like, just about everyone.

The bricks and windows about to go up, enclosing around the skeleton of our castle, made from kiln-dried hardwood, which was supplied by Calco – Trusses and Timber (who also gave me products to test before we went ahead): another awesome company who’ll be featuring at:

The Labyrinth: aka the ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House‘ project and in the book, Freedom: Build An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Home due out in 2017!

What’s great about our Shoji Doors, is they may have already outgassed completely because they were painted last year, which is wonderful; because even after we have completed the house there is another 2 -3 months of outgassing it first before I can actually live in it due to everything being new. 

I have to make sure all products containing solvents and petrochemicals have been personally tested for my chemical sensitivities. Or, I can’t live in the house, which essentially makes me homeless until Dan can sell it. I am on the Disability Support Pension; and it’s only through the good grace of Dan that I even have the chance to build a safe home, let alone write about it! The specialist’s letter specifically says I need to avoid particular products like solvents. And given the investigation into me having CIRS that’s going on right now (I have an MRI this Thursday), solvents are even more of an issue. 


And considering our shoji doors surround our bedroom on two sides: the bedroom has a small retreat room, which overlooks the bush and bay, a set of two shoji doors close off this area from my bedroom; the other side of the bedroom has set of shoji doors leading out into the upper living area.

More on our awesome Shoji doors:

They are made from oak wood

And the white rectangles look like Opal Rice Paper, which is an opaque-white fibreglass that has the texture and actual look of real rice paper! (Shoji Doors and Screens now have an acrylic version of the same Rice-Paper look material.)

Here’s the details for our wonderful Shoji Screens and Door supplier:

Shoji Screens & Doors

9 Nevilles St, Underwood QLD 4119

07 3208 6331

What I like best about this company is the fact that they took my medical illness absolutely seriously without even asking to see the doctors letter, and now (6 months after placing our order) that I’ve been assessed for a diagnosis of CIRS and it’s now blatantly imperative I avoid any chemical-irritants such as solvents (often used in lacquers and paints). Most of the companies I’ve dealt with, I’ve explained it as ‘Inhalant Allergies’ to solvents, fragrances etc because that’s what my original treating specialist has said. (It’s no big deal: chemical sensitivities are just a symptom of many conditions or they can be, controversially so, the actual condition itself, aka MCS or EI!) So after I explained my situation and our project, I received this back from just one of the most helpful assistants at Shoji Screens and Doors, Karen:

“… Should you still wish to proceed further we can supply you with a completed sample corner section of a door & insert panel using our usual joinery products and lacquer.  We will leave it for a week for the lacquer to dry completely and then post it you for your allergy testing.  Just let me know.”

And then, Shoji Screens and Doors sent out a lovely sample piece of the wood glued together, holding the ‘rice-paper-look fibreglass’ in the middle. It was so exciting to hold this little piece of Shoji! It was one of the first samples, I tested.


Opal Rice Paper Fibreglass. Isn’t it pretty?

However, at first I just wasn’t sure about this product because upon first opening of the package I noticed a kind of vague cleaning  product type scent. A scent of orange maybe? Like someone had peeled a mandarin then packed the Shoji sample into bubble-wrap package, sending it off to me. My breathing wasn’t impacted but I noted the odour, indicative of orange solvents, all the same, and thinking what that might be like on a grander scale, I swallowed my nervousness, and the possible idea that maybe I was just being overly cautious, or about to ask a silly question, and I immediately rang the business: after speaking to Damien at Shoji Screens and Doors who suggested we try another one; ergo, this time painted with an eco-paint that’s low voc.

The type of paint used on children’s wooden toys,

He also sent out a Material and Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to show what exactly was used previously:

Download (PDF, 389KB)

I was so impressed with the service and kindness of the staff at Shoji doors, I barely complained, just described the smell, questioning if had been in contact or had chemical-irritants in the form of solvents in it. (We enquired about the doors in 2014, sample tested in 2015, finally purchasing 3 sets of sliding shoji doors and 1 single door, so even though we had the eco-friendly, allergy-free conversation when I first contacted Shoji Screens and Doors, a year later, when ordering the sample, I didn’t reiterate my needs as far as avoiding allergens and irritants went). You know when you have that feeling in your gut when you know you have to confront someone about chemical usage, and you feel a little nervous? Well, I didn’t need to worry about that at all! Damien at Shoji Screens and Doors insisted on sending me a new sample painted with a specifically, low voc, low allergenic paint speaks volumes about the type of company they are: responsible, truly eco-friendly.

And he sent me another MSDS for it. Here they both are embedded here in this page via Google Docs: After I queried if the first sample had been wiped down with a cloth that maybe had some cleaning detergent containing chemical irritants in the ingredients, I was sent a new one painted with a new product Damien kindly sent over the MSDS, which I didn’t really look at but have put here for others to read in case it helps them make a decision on what product to use.

It tested fine overnight on my bedside table: no breathing issues at all. Damien said that maybe it was the 1st conventional paint used on that 1st sample; consequently, discussing the use of Mirrotone Low Volatile Organic (VOC) paint on the new sample.

MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Water Based Topcoat 

MIROTEC WB 8060 is a clear, single pack, water based topcoat. It is easy to apply and low yellowing.

Product Advantages 

 Single pack, no pot life issues to manage and less waste of product.
 Water white and low yellowing, it is ideal for use over blonde timbers and liming stains.

Higher solids content than clear nitrocellulose and precatalysed lacquers with similar chemical resistance to clear precatalysed lacquers.

 Low VOC (solvent content), non-flammable, low odour, safer for workers and the environment.

 Formaldehyde free, zero formaldehyde emissions in rooms in which coated articles are installed or used.

 Isocyanate free, does not require air assisted face masks or other respiratory personal protective equipment for application.

 Pthalate free, it is ideal for children’s toys.

 Complies with the Green Building Council Australia: Green Star – Office Design v3 & Office As Built, Table IEQ-13.1 Maximum TVOC Content Limits for Paints, Varnishes and Protective Coatings.

 MIROTEC WB 8060 is classified as a Group 1 material (In accordance with Specification A2.4 of the Building Code of Australia). (Average specific extinction area: 139.1 m2/kg. Refer tp Specification C1.10 section 4(c) of the Building Code of Australia.


Sample 2 painted with low voc water based sealer: MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Topcoat

Our carpenter, Damien has discussed with us how he can make them fit (I think via planning them to fit snug as a bug) into slider cavities that are set in tiles tightly to help with air-tightness.

On the second sample, Damien and Karen organised for MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Topcoat to be used on, it had no chemical odour on arrival. And I slept with it on my bedside table to make sure it didn’t impact on my breathing.

MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Topcoat is an easy to use water based topcoat that is water white and low yellowing, making it ideal for use over blonde timbers and liming stains. Being low VOC it has also helped many of our customers to achieve the criteria required for the Green Star rating they are working towards, as it complies with the Green Building Council Australia: Green Star – Office Design v 3 & Office As Built, Table IEQ – 13.1 Maximum TVOC Content Limits for Paints, Varnishes and Protective Coatings.

MIROTEC WB 8060 has also been Fire Rating tested and is classified as a Group 1 material (In accordance with Specification A2.4 of the Building Code of Australia). (Average specific extinction area: 139.1 m2/kg. Refer to Specification C1.10 section 4(c) of the Building Code of Australia.

Visit our projects section to see two examples of MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Topcoat in use; The University of Queensland and The Supreme Court in Wellington.

For more information on our water based coatings click here

Download (PDF, 278KB)

The shoji doors were also Quin’s idea: he really queried us on so many elements in regards to style, as well as materials suitable for my allergies and sensitivities, all structured around ecological values minimising our overall footprint on the planet. He also discussed with us the importance of testing every product before using it.

The Japanese theme came up a lot as did walled gardens with peaky holes in the fence surrounding the cottage out the back! The minimalist look, natural earthy colours and ways to make our house look modern and ‘homey’ while still adhering to the needs of my disability have turned out well–except for in a couple of instances, which we are trying to, and will fix.

However, at least we’re happy with our choice of company for our shoji doors. I can’t wait until this project is finished and I can show you the prototype for an allergy-free and eco-friendly safe house for people with conditions related to chemical sensitivity. But more so, I can live in a house that doesn’t make me ill due to mould, solvents or petrochemicals and fragrances.

Now,  as John Snow say’s, “Winter is coming.” And Dan and I both know that I need to be able to move in by winter or tough it out in my beach rental until the house is fully-fitted, out-gassed and ready for me to live inside of. Or:

Rent another house that’s not a WDB until it’s ready…

Thank you, Shoji Screens and Doors for being so awesome about my health condition. You are number 1! xo


Shoji Screens and Doors Portfolio

Technical Drawings for Shoji Doors and Screens

Shoji Design Guide



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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