Radiant floors warm gently in a different way than other types of central heating systems. They make no noise, have no fan, and the heat gently rises up through your body, starting with the feet and legs, which are often the coldest parts.
Radiant floor heating has been used for many years. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright piped hot water through the floors of many of his buildings in the nineteen-thirties. Some home builders have taken surveys that show most new home owners would prefer radiant floor heating over other types.
Advantages of Radiant Floor Heating
Most people who own radiant floor heating feel that the most important advantage is that radiant floors warm gently and quietly. It allows even heating throughout the whole floor, not just in smaller spots such as around wood stoves, heat vents or radiators. Also, the room and furnishings heat from the bottom up so you feel warm in your feet and across the entire body. Radiant floor heating also eliminates the perceptible air movement and dust problems associated with forced-air heating systems because there is no fan.
With radiant floor heating, you can set the thermostat several degrees lower. This is because the heat is radiated across the entire surface of the floor, making the occupant feel warmer, and it continues to radiate heat even when the system reaches the set point and stops pumping. Also, radiant systems do not need to pull in outside air like forced air systems do, so the warm air in the building stays. Fuel saving of 15% to 20% over a forced air system is common with radiant heat.
Finally, there are no heat registers or radiators to obstruct furniture arrangements and interior design plans. Put your furniture exactly where you want it!
Types of Radiant Floor Heating
Hot water (hydronic) systems are the most popular and cost-effective method in this area, although electric systems are also available. Hydronic radiant floor systems pump heated water from a boiler or water heater through tubing laid in a pattern underneath the floor. The temperature in each room is controlled by regulating the flow of hot water through each tubing loop. This is done by a system of zoning valves or pumps and thermostats.
For new construction, the tubing can also be embedded in the concrete foundation slab. It can also be added in a lightweight concrete slab on top of a sub-floor, or installed over a previously poured slab.
Other types of installation involves suspending the tubing underneath the sub-floor between the joists. This method usually requires drilling through the floor joists in order to install the tubing. Reflective insulation must also be installed under the tubes to direct the heat upward. Tubing may also be installed from above the floor, between an old and new sub-floor. In these instances, the tubes are often in reflective aluminum sleeves that spread the heat to the sides, away from the tubing, and direct it upwards.
Although ceramic tile is the most common floor covering for radiant floor heating, a variety of finished floor surfaces can be used. The choices include vinyl flooring, carpeting, and wood. Carpeting and padding, however, insulate the floor and reduces some of the benefits of radiant floor systems.
Major manufacturers of hydronic radiant floor systems now use cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) or rubber tubing with an oxygen diffusion barrier. Additives and filtration systems help protect hydronic heating systems from corrosion. PEX tubing has performed very reliably for many decades.
Cost of Radiant Floor Heating
The initial cost of installing a radiant floor depends on many factors, because there are many options available, but the recurring cost is usually lower than other heating systems. Although radiant floor systems are usually heated by a boiler, they can also be heated with a geothermal heat pump. This type of system provides even greater energy savings.
We can provide a custom estimate for your situation, so please contact us. We’ll be glad to help and advise you on the best options for your particular setting.