As the cold winter, it is critical that your home has the right heating system in place to keep you warm throughout these bitter cold months. If you’re building a new home or if it is time for an upgrade, consider radiant floor heating. This type of heating system is extremely energy efficient and requires very little maintenance. You can choose to have it installed in just your basement or bathrooms or throughout your entire house for all-over warmth.
What is radiant floor heating?
Radiant floor heating, also known as in-floor heating, is heat that radiates up from the floor of your home. This type of heating relies on convection: the circulation of heat in a room as the warm air rises. The floor begins to warm the air above it, which then warms the rest of the space as it rises. This provides an even distribution of the heated air that forced air systems just cannot replicate. And, just like forced air, radiant heat can be easily controlled by a thermostat. Newer thermostats can be connected to WiFi and accessed anywhere you can get internet connection.
There are three types of radiant floor heating: air, electric, and hydronic. In air-heated radiant floors, heated air passes through ducts that are installed in the floor. The warm air heats the floor, which then radiates that heat throughout your space. This type of radiant floor heating, however, is not cost effective in homes because air is not able to hold a great deal of heat.
Electric radiant flooring consists of heating cables built underneath the floor—usually mounted on the subfloor. Because the cost of electricity is typically high, electric radiant floor heat is best suited to spaces with concrete flooring, like a garage or basement. Because the concrete can store the heat for several hours, this can save a considerable amount of money if your utility company offers time-of-use rates (charging less for electricity used in off-peak hours).
Hydronic radiant flooring is typically the most cost-effective method of the three and is the most popular. Hydronic heating uses heated water from a boiler that is pumped through tubing under the flooring. Some systems use zoning valves or pumps and thermostats to regulate room temperature.
How much does radiant heating cost?
The initial cost of installing radiant floor heating may cause some homeowners to hesitate, as it can be anywhere from $10-15 per square foot or around $20 per square foot for professional installation. This cost varies depending on which type of radiant flooring you choose, what kind of flooring you currently have, and the size of the space you’ll be heating.
Is radiant heating better than forced air?
Reduced Energy Consumption
After the radiant flooring is installed, it will start saving you money on your energy bills compared to a forced air system. Radiant floor heating saves energy in a few different ways:
- Radiant flooring produces heat in the 75–80° range, while forced air systems must produce temperatures of 120–140° to heat a space.
- Because the heat rises from the floor, it more directly heats the area that people inhabit. Forced air heat tends to rise immediately to the ceiling, where you can’t feel it.
- Forced air creates breezes in your home, which tend to cool you down.
Improved Air Quality
Radiant heating can improve your home’s air quality by eliminating the heating ducts that can blow dust and other allergens throughout the house.
Low Maintenance, Long Life
A huge benefit of radiant floor heating is the fact that it requires little maintenance, and most systems come with a thirty-year warranty.
Are there downsides to radiant flooring?
As with anything, there can be some downsides to radiant floor heating. In an existing home, the current flooring will need to be removed, and it takes several days to install in-floor heat, which can create considerable disruption in your daily life. As discussed above, the initial investment is significant, and the installation can raise the level of your flooring, which can be a big drawback if your ceilings are already low.
Radiant heating can be used with just about any type of flooring, but some work better than others. Stone or ceramic tile are efficient choices because they conduct heat well, while insulating floor coverings like carpet or linoleum will require higher temperatures to heat the space.
Radiant flooring is a very energy-efficient heating system, and it can make your home feel luxuriously warm in the cold winter months. To learn more about home heating and cooling, check out our free resource library or subscribe to our blog.