When most people think of radiant heat or hydronic snowmelt, the usual applications are warm floors, heated sidewalks and snow-free driveways. Viega Radiant Design Services in Nashua, NH, has designed and quoted thousands of projects like those, but occasionally they receive requests for assistance with out-of-the-box projects.
The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) in Big Bear, CA, contacted Viega Radiant Design Services with a project that needed an innovative solution. A byproduct of the water treatment process is sludge, composed of 25% solids and 75% water. Since the sludge must be hauled by truck to an off-site disposal area, BBARWA needed a way to reduce the water content and weight of the sludge, making it less expensive to haul. BBARWA tried several different methods to dry the sludge with only marginal success, so they decided to devise a new system that would be more effective, more efficient and would reduce the odor complaints.
Viega Radiant Design Services worked on the specifics of the slab heating system design, focusing on what would be required to generate enough heat from the slab to meet the sludge-drying objectives. Viega design engineers used finite element analysis (FEA) to determine the optimum tubing size, spacing and install-depth in the slab based on the water temperature supplied from the diesel generator’s exhaust. Due to the shape and size of the 315- by 60-foot heated slab, it was clear that this project was an excellent application for Viega’s revolutionary Viega Climate Mat® system.
Since the facility produces its own electricity using three natural gas generators, the water flowing through the slab would be heated with a heat exchanger in one of the generator’s exhaust, making it an efficient co-generation system. Within the first year alone, the new system saved approximately $200,000 in transportation and fuel costs.
Viega Climate Mat® system
The contractors were impressed with the speed and ease of installation of the Viega Climate Mat and appreciated the support provided by Viega throughout the entire process, from design to installation.
“Anything you said you could do, you did it,” said Plant Manager Fred Uhler. “They were topnotch guys from the sales staff, to the design support. They were excited about the project. It’s great to work with people like that.”
Once the covered drying bed building was completed, the system went into operation in June 2014. Within a few months, it became clear that this unique application of radiant heating was a resounding success. In 2015, Uhler reported that the system was performing beyond expectations and even better in the low-humidity winter months.
“This system is self-operational, and I’ve had zero maintenance issues with it from Viega’s side of things,” Uhler said. “It couldn’t be any better.”
Additionally, the project received the California Water Association Desert Mountain Award for Innovation.
While conventional radiant heating and snow melting projects are everyday business for the Viega team, projects like the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency covered drying bed are prime examples of how Viega can design and deliver innovative solutions that improve lives, reduce energy usage and help protect the environment.
For more information on Viega system solutions, visit Viega.us.