Creating Warm Floors With Modular Recycled Rubber Panels

Taking the cold, hard surface of a concrete floor and making it a warm, comfortable “nice-to-walk-on” surface is where the idea for a recycled rubber radiant heat panel was born.

Launched by entrepreneur Gary Hydock more than six years ago, the floating modularly designed panels not only provide a moisture barrier but can be installed over an undulating surface such as concrete without any mechanical attachment. From idea to finished product, the six-year journey included testing, certification, patent applications, and contractor-approved demonstration projects to bring the panels to market.

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Today, Hydock’s Salamanca, NY-based company Seneca Radiant Technology (SRT) and its products are Green Spec® listed, qualify for LEED points and are sourced by contractors, residential home owners and commercial developers for new build, remodeling and restoration projects. In 2017, the company established Seneca Radiant UK, expanding its recycled rubber modular radiant heat panels internationally, Hydock said.

Hydock said inspiration for using rubber in the panels came from anti-fatigue mats.

“I saw rubber mats being installed where people have to stand at work,” he said. Nine materials and four material binders were tried in developing the panels. Of these, tire derived crumb rubber proved to have the best properties for the application, Hydock said. “Recycled tire crumb met performance specs as well as the ergonomic and environmental aspects we were looking to incorporate in the panels,” he said.

Hydock worked with local engineers and a CNC machining company to make the first prototypes. He also engaged local equipment manufacturers to design and manufacture the machinery and compression molding equipment to make the panels and set up a manufacturing arm at Engineered Composites, Inc. in Buffalo, NY.

Several product demonstrations with HVAC contractors and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) produced positive reviews and led to invitations from the American Institute of Architects and ASHRAE to do lunch and learn events to introduce SRT’s recycled rubber heat panels and technology to their members.

Hydock said the testing phase included flexural strength, density, PSI, isotherm distribution, BTU output, durometer, freeze thaw, seismic testing at the University of Buffalo Earthquake Center. G force shock head fall injury mitigation was conducted at the University of Tennessee School of Turf Science. The panels were also rated for noise reduction coefficient standards, anti-microbial properties, off-gassing and VOC emissions, Hydock said.

Seneca Radiant heat panels are designed to be installed over an existing concrete slab on grade, suspended high rise slab, over existing standard framing or under the sub-floor. The panel is made from 100 percent recycled tire rubber crumb. Individual panels are ¾ inches thick and weigh less than four pounds each. The rubber modular panel is one square foot in dimension with an engineered tube routing channel in the underside to house the radiant tube. The panels are shaped so that they interlock like a jigsaw, in both directions, without the need for fixing to the sub-floor. This attachment system allows for ease of connection for each individual panel and the modular system as a whole, creating an overall heating system characterized by quick and easy installation for both DIY installers and professionals, the company said.

Early on the business attracted the attention of Ross and Holly John, a pair of business owners from the Seneca Nation of Indians who wanted to build and expand Seneca Radiant’s manufacturing operation in a very economically challenged area, create jobs and use recycled materials such as the rubber from end of life tires.

Working with Ross and Holly John, Seneca Radiant established a manufacturing facility on Seneca Nation territory and outfitted the tribe’s indoor growing building with radiant heat panels combined with a geo-thermal system, Hydock said. The company also installed recycled rubber radiant panels over both existing concrete and standard construction framing in indoor living spaces at homes and condominiums on the tribal land.

“We are now looking to incorporate Day Care center floors,” Hydock said. “This will get the children off the concrete floor and provide better indoor air quality unlike forced air that puts the heat at the ceiling, ” he said.

The company is also exploring maritime applications and use of the panels in outdoor snow melt applications and has done installation and operating prototypes for both. Recently, the company submitted information about Seneca’s recycled rubber heat panels for inclusion in the update EPA Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines.

One of Seneca’s recent projects at a private ski resort home used 1500 square foot of Seneca Radiant panels comprising 5,334 lbs of tire derived crumb rubber. Seneca radiant recycled rubber panels were installed on the home’s concrete basement floor, turning the space into a warm, useable living area, homeowner Scott Hoffman said. In addition, the owners removed the electric baseboard heating in the main living area and installed recycled rubber radiant heat panels between the existing floor joists. “With the Seneca Radiant system, we didn’t have to tear up the floor, we reduced our heating costs by more than 47 percent over the previous system and our home is the warmest it’s ever been,” Hoffman said. An added benefit, Hoffman said, is a significant reduction in noise.

© Scrap Tire News, August 2020