Friday, February 4, 2011

Radiant Heat Advantages

When I completed my study for certification in Bau-biologie (Building-biology – the study of how our built living environment affects our health and well-being.) 15 years ago, I had learned that one of the most common causes of illness in the typical home is the presence of mold.

Mold alone can often account for many typical symptoms we might normally consider to be hay fever or just the common cold. Breathing problems, runny noses, coughing, and congestion are some typical complaints that sometimes are a result of the presence and growth of mold. Mold spores, like dust, can float in the air throughout your home.

There are actually very common places where mold often grows even in the homes of folks who take great pride in keeping their houses spic and span. One location is in the drip or evaporation tray at the base of the refrigerator. Another spot is the underside of the water tank portion of a flush toilet. The good news about these locations is that the average person can access these spots and clean up the problem.

But there are potential mold growth areas that are inaccessible. What’s worse is that sometimes the mold growth is encouraged by a forced air or other convection-type heating system. Specifically, mold can be encouraged to flourish in the dark, insulated stud wall cavities of the outside structure of the house.

Convection heat from normal woodstoves or forced air systems does not warm things directly. Instead, it heats air while objects, like the walls of the house, stay colder than the air. At the same time, the excessively warmed air is very low in moisture. But moisture has to go somewhere when it is not in the air. Some of it goes into the walls.

In addition, in most homes heated with a convection system, the outside air is more humid than the inside air. Thus we have moisture in the walls and moist air outside the walls and cold wall surfaces. And what often happens when moist air contacts a cold surface? If you answered “condensation”, go to the head of the class.

The cold, moist conditions created can be a superb environment for cultivating fungi of all sorts. Moist and dark areas like this also are very attractive to insects. The results of moisture in the walls can be as mild as some off odors or irritation and as severe as complete rotting of the wooden structure of the home and serious breathing problems.

By contrast, a masonry heater is not primarily a convection heater. Instead, 80% of its heat energy goes directly via infrared radiation into things. It is heating you, your furniture, your floors, and your walls. The heated items dictate the air temperature. Air temperature and wall temperature tend to be virtually the same.

Since the masonry stove is not superheating air, moisture is not driven out of the room and into your walls. Rather interior humidity levels stay at a higher, healthier, more natural level. At the same time, since wall temperatures are higher, condensation is much less likely from the outside. The end result is a healthier, more comfortable, and more carefree living environment.

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