Does anyone have experience doing ceiling heat repair. This subject seems to be hard to find out exactly what is the correct procedure for finding and repairing ceiling heat. Any informantion would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Jim Journeyman Electrician
Watthead, actually radiant ceiling heat is much more efficient than electric baseboard heating. Electric baseboard heating is the about the least efficient heating source. Radiant ceiling heat is also much more comfortable heating since the temperature from the floor to ceiling is very close to the same.
jr, Try using circuit tracing equipment. Even a tic tracer. Believe it or not, the $30 circuit breaker locators are pretty good at tracing wires, follow the path slowly till you lose the signal. Not guaranteed but better than guessing. also look closely at the plaster finish, you can usually locate old patches etc.
I repair a fair amount of ceilng radiant heat here in Indiana. The folks that have it turn down the option of baseboard heat almost to a person. They really love the ceilng heat.
I use a tic tracer, and disconnect one half of the 230v feed to the thermostat, and then by-pass the t-stat. Turn the circuit back on, use the tracer to follow the cable up the wall, then in the tight loops across the ceiling. When you run out of signal, mark the spot (pencil) the repeat the process with the other half of the circuit. If it runs out in the same place, you've found the break. If not, keep at it. A lot of it is learned experience, and figuring out how the ceiling loops are run. They are installed in loops back and forth across the ceiling, usually 4" apart, from one end to another. The wires are usually sandwiched between two layers of drywall, or plastered onto an existing layer of plasterboard then another board is added and plastered again.
A tip is to find and look at the crimped connections between the resistive wire in the ceiling and the wires feeding them from the t-stat. They seem to disintegrate first. Second tip is to look for anything added to the ceiling through the years. I've patched more than a few right at a swag hook installed fairly recently. Third tip, repair guys often repair water damage by removing the first layer of plaster/drywall, then screwing the patch piece to the ceiling without thinking or knowing of the cable heat. The screws often just nick the wire, and the wire lasts some time before finally burning through. Patches could be a few years old before any trouble shows, so ask about older patches as well as very recent ones.
Tell the folks you're doing the work for that it's often time-consuming to repair the heat, but well worth it.
Didn't there used to be a section in the American Electrician's Handbook on installing ceiling heat? If you know how it's installed, it's easier to visualize how to find and repair it.
edited for late night, two fingered typing.
[This message has been edited by Dallas (edited 12-05-2004).]
Watthead, I have never lived in a house with ceiling heat but many years ago designed and installed many ceiling heat systems for projects the required electric heat. All customers were very happy with the system. Baseboard heat is very expensive to operate and there are quite large variances in the temperatures around the room. With radiant ceiling heat the temperatures around the room are the same within a couple of degrees. Radiant heating doesn’t just heat the air, it heats the ceiling, floor furniture and the people standing in the room. If you have had a bad experience with radiant ceiling heat it was because it was not designed/installed properly. All the heating systems I installed were panel systems not individual wires.
Thanks for the help. I agree with everyone that ceiling heat is not the best option for heating a house. It does have some advantages besides heating attic. Some of my customers like it because it is silent and it does not take up any wall space and it heats even. There is a lot of houses up here in Oregon that have ceiling heat. It was just one of those things they put in houses in the 60's and 70's. Does anyone know what would be the proper way to splice a broken heating conductor in the ceiling? I think typically electricains use crimp barrel sleeves.