Radiant Floor Heating

Considering a remodel? Thinking about building a home? One of the first aspects of construction any homeowner should consider is heating and cooling. The proper heating system directly affects the value of the home, energy efficiency, and day-to-day living. Many homeowners now opt for radiant floor heating to provide the most advantages. However, others wonder, why is it the best possible option and what exactly is radiant floor heating?

The advantages of radiant floor heating are numerous. First, there are no ducts that allow heated air to escape. This makes heating more energy efficient, which allows for much smaller electric bills. Likewise, radiant floor heating is safer and performs better than space heaters and baseboard heat. Second, those with allergies are much less likely to experience issues when floor heating is present. Forced-air systems cause allergens to be sucked in and released through vents, often leading to year-round distress. Also, radiant floor heating gives each room a cozy feeling and an even temperature. There are no more cold floors on chilly mornings. Because heat rises, that warmth easily fills each room.

Once a homeowner or prospective builder learns more about why radiant floor heating is the best choice, he or she likely wishes to know how radiant floor heating works. There are three basic types of radiant floor heat: electric radiant floors, hydronic radiant floors, and radiant air floors.

Electric Radiant Floors

Electric cables or conductive plastic mats are built into floors or mounted on the subfloor beneath a floor covering. Electric radiant floors are excellent options in kitchens, sunrooms, or other rooms that typically have tile flooring. They should also be considered for home additions as they negate the need for extending an existing central heating system.

Hydronic Radiant Floors

The most popular choice for radiant floor heating, hydronic heating systems use water to create warm rooms. The water is heated with a boiler and pumped through a series of tubes that are placed below the floor. Hydronic radiant floors vary in terms of installation cost and time, but heating bills tend to be significantly lower once the system is in place.

Radiant Air Floors

The least common type of radiant floor heating, radiant air floors use heated air that is distributed through the floor in order to heat a room. Radiant air floors are the most expensive option as well as the least efficient. They are sometimes touted as useful with solar air heating systems. However, these systems are typically only at their peak during daytime hours. Radiant air floors are good choices for homes in warmer climates that only need occasional heat.

The next question the builder should consider is what type of flooring covers the radiant floor heating. Most people erroneously believe that ceramic tiles are the only flooring option when radiant floor heating is put into place. Though ceramic tile is more common, practically any flooring type is possible.

Ceramic tiles are beloved by homeowners because they are durable, attractive, and easy to clean. However, ceramic tile also have reputation for being very cold. Of course, with radiant floor heating, this is a non-issue. Indeed, ceramic tiles conduct heat extremely well, which makes them the most energy efficient choice.

Other types of flooring may be less effective than ceramic, but still allow the homeowner to experience the warmth and relative low-cost of radiant floor heating. Laminate sheets and tiles are often preferred by homeowners because they are inexpensive and can easily be replaced. Laminate is a fine choice for radiant floors with little extra care needed for a safe and warm environment.

Wood is a widely accepted flooring choice due to its beauty and long-lasting quality. However, laminated wood products are better choices for radiant floors. These products have the look and feel of real wood, but they won't dry out the way real wood can when faced with prolonged exposure to heat.

Even carpet can be used with radiant floor heating, though care must be taken to use the right kind of carpeting in order to get the most out of this system. Start with high density padding. The right pad helps to conduct heat and also makes the floor more comfortable. The carpet itself should be thin. Thicker carpets require higher temperature settings, which is slightly less efficient.

More information on Radiant Floor Heating can be found throughout this website as well as on Energy.gov Radiant Heating.

Other fantastic resources on the subject include:

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