Nothing makes a home uncomfortable like cold floors. Would you look forward to stepping on a cold floor from bed or after leaving the bathroom? Certainly not! That’s why heated floors have become quite popular in homes all over Canada these recent years. Radiant floor heating is a somewhat new and more effective way of heating modern homes. These systems are totally invisible in the sense that they don’t occupy any floor space, make noise or increase dust in your home.
Like all floor-heating systems, there’s a lot of misinformation regarding radiant floor heating. Many assume that these systems are costly, dangerous and don’t complement their flooring material. All these are far from the truth. We’ll cover some of these concerns in the paragraphs below and debunk common myths on radiant floor heating.
What is radiant floor heating?
Radiant floor heating is installed beneath the floor to provide the warmth needed from the bottom up. The technologies used in incorporating heating under the floor have evolved significantly over the years. These systems work by circulating heat through flexible tubing that is installed underneath the floors. The floor gets warm and radiates the heat throughout the room. It’s a gradual process that’s more effective and distributes heat at a much more comfortable rate.
The beauty of radiant heating is that it eliminates overreliance on systems like furnaces and leaves adequate floor space for you to put as much furniture as you want in the area. Radiant heating systems aren’t bulky, they are also very efficient, silent and dust-free.
One of the main advantages of radiant heating is that it warms the space evenly from the bottom up. The heat is maintained for a longer period of time. Unlike most conventional heating systems that don’t maintain the heat when shut down, radiant floor heating can help you save on energy as it heats the room evenly. It also offers better air quality. Forced air systems generally blow air that consists of dust and allergens. They circulate them throughout your home exposing your family to health issues. This is never a problem with radiant heat as the air quality is well maintained.
Benefits of radiant floor heating:
• More efficient than base-board and forced-air heating
• Doesn’t distribute allergens like most forced air systems
• Can use little electricity (water-based radiant heating systems)
• Can be used in homes where electricity is inaccessible or is too costly
Electronic versus Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant heating can be divided into two broad categories: hydronic and electric floor heating.
With electric floor heating, electrical cables are installed above the subfloor and a thermostat is used to control temperatures. This is an ideal system for small rooms due to the high cost of electricity. It’s also a suitable floor heating solution if you’re looking for supplemental heat. Radiant floor heating systems that use electrical cables are often installed in bathrooms and kitchens. They are able to heat up the room quickly and are cheaper to install than hydronic systems.
Hydronic systems, on the other hand, use water which is heated by a boiler or water heater and travels through plastic tubing. The tubing is placed above the subfloor and clipped on the underside of the floor or simply buried in the concrete.
Hydronic systems are more costly to install than the electrical cables that provide underfloor heating. The main advantage of this system is that it’s less expensive to operate. It’s an ideal solution for heating larger areas such as the entire house. A hydronic system can offer extreme comfort and be used reliably as the home’s main heating source.
When choosing a hydronic system, you need to decide on the type and size of boiler that suits your needs. The boilers also use different types of fuel such as natural gas, oil or coal.
What should you do if something goes wrong?
Prior to investing in a radiant floor heating system, it’s important to think through the following:
• Is your home properly insulated? Poor insulation can mean energy wastage. Even the most effective heating system, in a home that’s not well insulated, won’t perform optimally. Consider investing in proper insulation first.
• Do you want to save on fuel? If you choose to go with the hydronic system, choose a fuel source that is cost-efficient. You can also incorporate an electric floor heating system in small areas to use it during off-peak hours e.g. at night.
• What type of floor covering is installed in your home and will it work? Radiant heating performs better in certain types of floor covering compared to others. For instance, if your floor is made of ceramic tiles, it will work perfectly with radiant floor heating since the material warms up fast and evenly. However, floor coverings like carpets will make it difficult for heat to get to the room as they act as an insulating barrier.
How to maintain radiant floor heating
All types of floor heating systems need to be properly maintained in order to reach the expected lifespan. Hire an expert who understands the maintenance demands of underfloor heating systems to ensure it’s always in good shape. The hydronic systems have pipes that will last for many years and may need minimal maintenance.
However, the other mechanical parts such as the pumps and boilers will need repairs and regular upkeep to keep them in good working condition. Cleaning of the pumps should also be done regularly while also checking the pressure valves for any signs of damage. If you notice the pumps have started wearing out, consider having them replaced. Damaged pumps can cause more costly problems if ignored.
Radiant floor heating systems don’t have filters or ducts that need cleaning on a regular. You don’t have to spend money on venting outdoors as is the case with most HVAC systems. During an inspection, the technician will check for signs of leaks, which could mean that oxygen is finding its way into the system. Leaks can also result in low pressure, which prevents the system from functioning optimally.
How long do radiant floor heating systems last?
Radiant floor heating systems are made using high tech materials and can have a lifespan of up to 100 years. If well maintained, these systems can beat the lifespan of conventional HVAC systems. However, you will need to replace the mechanical parts of the system over time. For instance, the pumps, water heater, and boiler may need to be replaced more often. One way to extend the lifespan of your radiant heating system is to keep the temperature lower. Never miss the annual maintenance as it helps to identify issues at the early stages and fix them.
Which floor coverings work with radiant heating?
Other than ceramic tile, which is considered the most effective floor covering for radiant heating, common options like vinyl and linoleum can also be used. The rule of thumb is to avoid floor coverings that insulate the floor because they decrease the efficiency of this system.
If you really want to incorporate carpeting in your home, use thin carpets with very minimal padding. If installing radiant heating systems in wood flooring, opt for laminated wood instead of solid wood. Solid wood is more prone to shrinking and cracking due to the drying effects of the heat.
How much does radiant heating cost?
Other than the comfort that comes with even heat distribution, radiant heating doesn’t constantly cycle on and off. Hydronic systems save you energy and lower fuel costs leading to further savings. The boilers use very low temperature to heat your home. This hydronic system is likely to cost more than a forced hot air system. However, in the long run, it saves you money.
One of the main factors that influence the installation cost is the access to the subfloor and the extent to which the flooring or ceilings need to be broken down during installation.
Hydronic radiant floor heating costs about $6 to $16 a square foot.
Electric radiant floor heating costs about $5 to $7 per square foot for the materials or $8 to $12 for the installation service.
Proper installation is key
Radiant floor heating systems can last for many years but they must be installed well in order to reach their expected lifespan. The type of system that is best for your property will depend on your unique needs as well as the budget. Get a technician to advise on which floor heating system works best for your unique requirements. Consider this as a long-term investment that contributes to increasing the value of your property.
About Heavenly Heat radiant floor heating systems
Heavenly Heat Inc. provides consumers with proper solutions when it comes to floor warming systems. The company has highly experienced installers and flooring experts who offer great advice as well as quality installations. The company manufactures its own products which are available at specialized tile stores.