Orlando, Fla. — Radiant floor heating system manufacturer Uponor Inc. updated the control zoning system it brought to market nine years ago with wireless technology and an expansion modular to add six thermostats for a total of 12.
But it's a new feature called auto balancing that should make it a hot item with installation contractors because it eliminates the math work to establish the proper flow rates to all rooms regardless of size.
“When you install a radiant system, you commission it to balance each loop — it might be a 200-foot loop or a 250-foot loop — to make sure each gets the same amount of heat,” Kim Bliss, technical communications manager for Uponor, said at the International Builders' Show.
Manually balanced underfloor heating systems are based on theoretical design criteria and the installers' perceptions about how the rooms in a house will be used and what the peak load will be. Contractors can skip those calculations and estimates after they install Uponor's cross-linked polyethylene pipe.
“You hook it up to a space unit and it auto balances,” Bliss said. “We're trying to make radiant more repeatable and easier to install.”
Instead of balancing a system for peak load, the automated system adapts to usage patterns during the heating season, which Uponor says lowers energy consumption by up to 25 percent.
In addition, the system comes with wireless thermostats that can be taken off the wall and moved around.
“Wherever they go, they sense the temperature and if it is changing, they send a signal to the base unit that tells the loop to warm up or cool back,” Bliss said.
Based in Apple Valley, Minn., Uponor has put a lot of time and money into technological advances. The company invested $15 million into a partnership with Playa Vista, Calif.-based Belkin International Inc. for a joint venture called Phyn LLC, which will offer products that detect leaks to protect property and measure water use to encourage conservation and save money.
Phyn has patented pressure-sensing technology and with a single point of exposure to a plumbing system can tell how much water is being used by faucets, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines and irrigation systems.
Phyn is installing beta units of its smart water system through the end of April. The goal is to get 500 units into houses in different climate zones and then get the product to market this fall.
“Small leaks can develop into mold or long-term problems,” Kate Olinger, project manager for Phyn, said in an interview at the Orlando show. “The product uses pressure drop to monitor the entire system for instances of unintended water use. It looks for catastrophic leaks and faucets left on by a kid.”
If a change is detected, the homeowner is alerted by real-time data sent to a smartphone app.
With annual sales of $304.6 million, Uponor is the 14th largest producer of pipe, profiles and tubing in North America, according to Plastics News' ranking.