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Radiant heat tube detection....?

kabshire's picture

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Hi, everyone. 'Hope the holidays are merry for all.
We're just now arriving at some semblance of a winter here in this far north paradise - mere dusting of snow, but getting cold.

My question is to all the radiant floor experts out there, and it
probably is a futile one, however I must ask.

Is there any way on this green earth to actually "detect" where there
might be a water tube in the gypcrete below our laminate floor? When
we built last year, I was very careful to lay a board where I thought(!)
I would be weaving at my loom in my studio. Even took pictures of every
room in the house before the gypcrete was poured, but of course, not all
those pictures came out clear enough to see well, and without measuring
between every tube & doing a schematic(?)of the entire 2,200 sq. ft.,
it's all guess work - except where I laid that board to allow for a
future electric plug and something to bolt the loom down to. Anyway,
here I am, a year later, and would like to move the loom, but without
Superman's x-ray vision, I'm at a loss as to where to poke the holes
for the bolts. Of course, it goes without saying, that my ever lovin'
husband doesn't even want to *think* about it..... Soooo, was wondering
if there was some clever way/tool which could help me out. I mean, when
I discovered the stud sensor, I was a happy camper (and so is he).

If anyone has ideas/methods for this dilemma, I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks to all - such an enjoyable board of experts!

Kris
12 degrees
in Alaska

(post #167349, reply #1 of 27)

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Kris,

you should be able to sound them. Go where you KNOW you have tubing passing and sound it with a small mallet. Once you get the knack of it try it at other places. Soon you'll be able to find that needle in a hay stack'.

A construction testing company with a hilti sensor should be able to map it out for you. This instrument is meant to locate rebar in concrete but can locate pipes as well.

Gabe

(post #167349, reply #2 of 27)

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I'll attest that it's easy to do before the flooring, be/c you can feel the heat in the floor, but much harder to do once the flooring is on. Kind of like picking up a dime w/ two pair of mittens on.

I have gypcrete and concrete floors. Haven't yet installed T&G flooring, but have installed tile. The RFH is on. Just tried Gabe's first method on the gypcrete, and I don't have the knack. And it would have been much trickier w/ the flooring. I think I could find the joists that way, but I wasn't practiced enough to find the tubing, even though I could feel the heat to within 1/2" of them.

Once, when the tubes were pressurized only by air, we drilled a hole where I swore there was no tube. Even used pictures. Oops. Took me a day to fix. Woulda been worse with water. Call someone about the sensor Gabe mentioned, or even call the company that makes the tube to see if they have suggestions. Good luck.

(post #167349, reply #3 of 27)

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Jim,

Before you give up on sounding, try this.

Using just your index and middle fingers, try sounding like a doctor does on your chest. Tap the floor and listen carefully to the tone.

You should be able to pick up the pipe.

An exercise that I use is to have someone hide a dime in a phone book, about 20 pages down and then try to sound it out by taping with your two fingers and locate the dime. You should be able to find it after a few tries.

What the hell, give it a try.

Gabe

(post #167349, reply #4 of 27)

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An easy way to find heated tubing is to use a non-contact thermometer. You can get a Raytek MiniTemp MT2 for $89.95 from TekSupply 800-835-7877. When scanning the floor with this or similar sensor the area directly above a heated tube will read higher than the surrounding areas. Scanning across the floor perpendicular to the tubing you should get readings proportionally similar to this:11223344556677665544332211223344556677665544332211223344556677665544332211. With the tubing being found under the 7's.

You can also search for similar instruments by searching the web. A big site is Davis Instruments.

(post #167349, reply #5 of 27)

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Sounds like a plan that might work well, Freelance.

Gabe

(post #167349, reply #6 of 27)

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Yes the thermometer idea sounds great. You might also try a real stethascope from the drug store and you might be able to hear the fluid flow.

They do have instruments for this but none of us can afford them. look at: www.professionalequipment.com

(post #167349, reply #7 of 27)

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Gee, guys. (gstringe, too?)
Thanks for all these great suggestions. Maybe this dilemma is not impossible, after all.

Kris

(post #167349, reply #8 of 27)

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A crew near here that repairs RFH leaks uses a stethescope (like gstringe mentioned) to listen and locate leaks in gypcrete. Pinpoint accuracy. I'd venture that it could be extended to locating the tubing as well. Make sure the thermostat is turned up so the water is flowing, though...there's a story behind that.

Open framing pictures are good, but for others, don't forget to include a scale of some sort in the picture. For known locations as in this case, supplement with (X, Y grid) measurements off of two walls.

(post #167349, reply #9 of 27)

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Even if I had used all the above techniques to try to locate the tubing in my radiant floor as best as possible, I would not drill a hole through it. The expense and hassle of having to repair a tubing leak would not be worth it to me. Maybe there is another alternative. Could you bolt a board into the edge of the floor (where your pictures would ensure no tubing) and then attach the loom to the surface board, etc, etc.

I am going to side with your husband on this one.

(post #167349, reply #10 of 27)

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I have copper tubing imbeded in my plaster ceiling and needed to locate tubing as well. try a spray bottle with water. when heat is on, spray water on the gypcrete. the water over the tubing should evaporate before it does between the tubes. you should be able to see the outline of the tubing in a few minutes.

Ed

(post #167349, reply #11 of 27)

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Hi Chris:
I haven't had to did it myself but I've wondered about how to accurately locate the EX piping myself.
Here what my brain storming came up with: Unhook the EX at the
manifold of the zone/room you wish to locate. "Fish" a wire through the entire length of the pipe. The get a pipe locator and hook up
the sender to the wire in the pipe and locate the signal and mark out
the route of the EX with tape on the floor. Once you have the wire
in the EX there might be other ways to locate the posisition of the
Pipe using different locator technology. Not up on the latest techie stuff.
Actually the "BIG" question I want to answer is how do you fix a hole in the PEX when drive a nail through it putting down the finish floor?? An answer that question would be worth some money and the
undieing love of all radiant floor installer across the world;-)
David

(post #167349, reply #12 of 27)

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Hey Chris,
My wife is a hand weaver, too. We have two floor looms, but neither is bolted down. I kind of like the "bump" they make when she hits the beater.

Anyway...in my insurance business I occasionally run into busted water pipes in concrete slab floors. This sort of thing is hard to track down, and generally makes a big mess of the hallway, with the plumber giving it the old trial and error.

We had a rupture in a hot water line under concrete not too long ago. The plumbers were stumped. My homeowner happened to be a mechanic at a big diesel power company, and he came up with a trick that taught me something. There are heat detecting "guns" (sensors) that look a lot like a timing light
that mechanics use. They are used to detect blockages in radiators. This $200 tool found the hot spot within one inch. I'm sure you could borrow or rent one.

Good luck. BTW, our looms are hand made from 2 x 3 white oak, and are heavy enough to hold themselves down.

(post #167349, reply #13 of 27)

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David,

Have you ever tried to fish a wire through a cpl hundred feet of radiant hose? If so, great idea and please expand on that. I gave some thought to securing a locator wire to a centipede and luring him to the other end with some "centipede in heat" scent. Seriously, anyone placed a locator wire on the hose in concrete before they pour?

(post #167349, reply #14 of 27)

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If you could access both ends of any particular loop of tubing, you could attach a thin, flexible wire to a plug of some sort and pull it through with a vacuum. Maybe a wadded up rag would work or a small ball just smaller than the inside diameter of the tubing. Just a thought.

Tom Laing

(post #167349, reply #15 of 27)

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Until someone steps up and says they've been successful, I'm really leary of snaking, blowing or sucking a wire through 300 feet of tubing with about 40 bends in it. Remember how hard it is to pull wire through just 4 or 5 90's?

A regular medical stethoscope is the most sensitive way to detect the sound (short of a doppler ultrasound unit). A mechanics $4 stethoscope might also work. Or just some tubing run (gently) to your ear. Kris, it's warmed up. Now 33F in Alaska, David

(post #167349, reply #16 of 27)

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I tell you what. You guys are sooooo creative. It's also good to know this is a dilemma that reaches farther than my humble studio, and "like minds" are coming up with all sorts of potential solutions.

I really like the forethought of running a little wire through the tubes..... Also, for my immediate purpose, the support board at the wall might work, too....

Anyway, thanks!

Kris

P.S. Greg, while your looms are, no doubt, heavier than mine, I must wonder what kind of floor they set on, i.e., slick like laminate wood, hardwood, or carpet.
When I attach my 22# iron weight to my beater bar to weave rugs with a linen warp,there is noooo waaaaaaay, this little number isn't going to move! :)

(post #167349, reply #17 of 27)

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As long as we're brainstorming. Here's one that I've been thinking about for a couple days but was gonna keep it to myself cause it's too silly. But here it is.

Disconnect tube from system, add salt to water in tubing. This will make the water relatively conductive.

Attach a toner (the tone generator the phone company uses to put a tone on a wire ) or just stick a speaker wire from your stereo to the water.

Use an inductive amp you can buy at radio shack ro 30 bucks to find where the signal is the strongest.

Actually, I like the stethoscope method best. You can hear water moving through a pipe or valve by putting a large screwdriver handle to your ear tightly and touching the tip of the tool to the pipe.

(post #167349, reply #18 of 27)

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kabshire - Call a local structural engineering firm and see if they have a pachometer (pronounced pack-ometer) that you can borrow. Any decent sized firm will have one. That'll find it easily.

Jeff

(post #167349, reply #19 of 27)

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Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm. I wonder why the manufacturer doesn't mold a wire in the pipe when they make it, or at least glue it to the side as it comes out of the injection molder. This would solve the problem of finding the pipe when it is buried in place. (cost? How much could it add per foot?)
Granted I've never tried to run a wire through my exisiting PEX but the bends are fairly gently in my system and fishing a 14 gauge wire through smooth walled 1/2 PEX shouldn't to hard. Would it be??
I think the next time I install a radiant floor system I will run a copper wire next to it before the
gypcrete is poured. Extra money yes, but it will solve other problems later.

(post #167349, reply #20 of 27)

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Or disconnect the tube and get some air bubbles into the tube. This will make it a lot easier to hear w/ a stethoscope. Not too much air, though, or you'll get an airlock. Maybe pour some carbonated water in. :)

Good luck,

Jim

(post #167349, reply #21 of 27)

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Turn the heat up, then mop the floor. The first place to dry will be over the pipes. If this works the credit goes to Dan Holohan at Heatinghelp.com

(post #167349, reply #22 of 27)

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We're always telling people about Wonder Bread for sweating existing copper pipes. Would Jim have us put in Alka-Seltzer tablets to make the bubbles?

(post #167349, reply #23 of 27)

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>Would Jim have us put in Alka-Seltzer tablets to make the bubbles?

Depends how sick the heating system is. But only if you used 2" tube--they'd get stuck otherwise. :)

Just to be clear, I was joking. The only serious point was that it is easier to hear water flowing in a tube if it has air bubbles. Not that you want that as an operational condition. We use a system that automatically bleeds out air.

As to the ideas of seeing where water evaporates first, I was told same thing, and then told on this board that it was an old wive's tale. I have tried it and not found it to work (could depend on water temp, I guess). Heat is too evenly dispursed, even on my 1 1/2" gypcrete floor. It would be especially difficult with a floor covering (Kris has a laminate floor). I _can_ walk around barefoot and "feel" the tube location on bare concrete/gypcrete floors, but not on the ones that are tiles or have other covering. Haven't been able to talk my HVAC contractor into taking his shoes off though.

(post #167349, reply #24 of 27)

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Some of Zircon's latest stud finders make all sorts of claims for being able to find metal in walls, etc. Maybe the right model? Either that or the pachometer will be far more accurate than looking for the 'effects' of heating, etc.

Jeff

(post #167349, reply #25 of 27)

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Spoke w/ my Wirsbo rep today, and he recommended an infrared temperature gun, such as the Raynger ST Non-contact thermometer he has, about $120 at Grainger.

*Just saw that Freelance made same recommendation, but a different manuf/model*

(post #167349, reply #26 of 27)

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A thermal imaging camera works when the heat is on.
Thats the way the wallies at heatinghelp.com say they find where radiant pipe has been laid.
Do a web search on thermal imaging.

(post #167349, reply #27 of 27)

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Hi, everyone. 'Hope the holidays are merry for all.
We're just now arriving at some semblance of a winter here in this far north paradise - mere dusting of snow, but getting cold.

My question is to all the radiant floor experts out there, and it
probably is a futile one, however I must ask.

Is there any way on this green earth to actually "detect" where there
might be a water tube in the gypcrete below our laminate floor? When
we built last year, I was very careful to lay a board where I thought(!)
I would be weaving at my loom in my studio. Even took pictures of every
room in the house before the gypcrete was poured, but of course, not all
those pictures came out clear enough to see well, and without measuring
between every tube & doing a schematic(?)of the entire 2,200 sq. ft.,
it's all guess work - except where I laid that board to allow for a
future electric plug and something to bolt the loom down to. Anyway,
here I am, a year later, and would like to move the loom, but without
Superman's x-ray vision, I'm at a loss as to where to poke the holes
for the bolts. Of course, it goes without saying, that my ever lovin'
husband doesn't even want to *think* about it..... Soooo, was wondering
if there was some clever way/tool which could help me out. I mean, when
I discovered the stud sensor, I was a happy camper (and so is he).

If anyone has ideas/methods for this dilemma, I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks to all - such an enjoyable board of experts!

Kris
12 degrees
in Alaska