When winter hits, all homeowners want a heating system that is warm, efficient, and reliable. Radiant floor heating has been providing this solution for thousands of years—ever since the ancient Romans created flues for wood-burning fires beneath their marble floors. Of course, radiant heating has evolved since then. Today, it uses electrical wires or hot water tubes beneath the floor to heat an entire room. Despite its long history, many modern homeowners have questions about what radiant heating is, how it works, and whether it’s a good choice for their homes. If you’re building a new home or renovating your existing one, it’s important to answer these and other questions before choosing your heating system. Discover the pros and cons of radiant heat with this overview of what to know about radiant floor heating.
How Does Radiant Floor Heating Work?
While other heating systems warm the air inside a building, radiant floor heating directly warms the floor. This allows heat to rise and radiate throughout the room, creating an overall toasty feeling with no random cold spots. As mentioned above, there are two main types of radiant floor heating: electric-based and water-based systems. The water-based system, also known as hydronic radiant floor heating, pumps water from a boiler through tubing embedded in the floor. Electric radiant heating, on the other hand, heats the floor through smaller electrical wires beneath the floor. How do the two compare? Hydronic floor heating is far more complicated to install, leading to heftier initial costs than the relatively simple electric-based system. That said, electric floor heating will create higher utility costs on a monthly basis, making it more expensive to operate over time.
What Are the Benefits of Radiant Floor Heating?
As with all home improvement options, radiant floor heating comes with advantages and disadvantages. Learning about both the benefits and the drawbacks will help you make a smart decision for your home. Overall, contractors and homeowners praise radiant floor heating for its uniform heating, energy efficiency, safety, and ease of installation. Find out more about these perks and what they mean for your home below.
Effortless Uniform Heating
Other heating systems use vents to distribute warm air throughout a room. This leads to cold spots and uneven heating. Areas that are far from vents, closer to exterior walls or windows, or blocked from airflow will always be colder than the areas closer to the source of warmth. Radiant floor heating offers uniform heating that warms the entirety of a room. By heating the floor, radiant heating distributes warmth evenly. There are no uncomfortable cold spots. Furthermore, the lack of drafts will make a room feel warmer, even if the ambient temperature is lower.
Every year, more homeowners, contractors, and building managers make choices that create greener, more environmentally friendly buildings. Installing radiant floor heating is one such choice. These heating systems retain heat far better than other systems. This is because the heat stays in the floor, close to the source, rather than leaking out of vents or ductwork. Electric-based systems are also quick to heat up, and you can utilize a programmable thermostat. This allows homeowners to heat each room to their preference without leaving a furnace or boiler running constantly.
Safe and Comfortable
Other heating systems might require a clunky radiator with sharp edges and surfaces that are painfully hot to the touch. While this might not normally be a concern, it’s certainly something to consider if you have young ones in the house. With radiant floor heating, the entire heating system is safely out of sight. You never have to worry about an accident with adventurous youngsters or even absentminded adults. Furthermore, radiant floor heating is a hypoallergenic solution that works to preserve the air quality in your home. Heating systems that work by warming the air create a cycle that circulates air—and all the dust and allergens in it—through a room over and over again. You also have to worry about cleaning out vents and replacing air filters on a regular basis. Radiant heating eliminates these concerns and offers a clean, allergen-free heating solution for your home.
While hydronic systems require a professional, electric-based systems are easy enough for DIY-savvy homeowners to install themselves. You can even purchase rolls that already contain the necessary heating cable. Simply lay these rolls evenly across the entire room. The lack of ductwork also helps create a faster and easier installation process. Even better, radiant heating works beneath any type of flooring. You can install carpet, vinyl, tile, or even USA-made engineered hardwood flooring above your radiant heating system, giving you the freedom to design your room any way you want.
What Are the Drawbacks of Radiant Floor Heating?
Despite these incredible benefits, radiant floor heating isn’t for everyone. Installing and running radiant heating might not be the best option for your budget or the design of your home. Be sure to carefully consider the drawbacks of radiant heating before you make your final decision.
Steep Installation Costs
If you’re researching what to know about radiant floor heating, one of the most pressing concerns is cost. While radiant heating is energy efficient, it often has a steep installation cost. Even electric radiant floor heating, which is cheaper and easier to install, will still have a price of about $10 to $20 per square foot. You will also need a qualified electrician to connect the heating system to your home’s power supply. You must also factor in the costs of removing and replacing your current flooring. All of this adds up to significant installation costs.
Changes the Floor Height
Some homeowners also worry about a radiant heating system raising the height of their floor. The electric wire or hot water tubes, as well as any insulation boards or underlayment, will increase the floor height anywhere from one-eighth of an inch to an inch. This can make a space feel smaller and impact many design ideas you might have. Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker. If you’re concerned about floor height, you can opt for electric radiant floor heating systems, which typically only lift the floor about half of an inch. Certain roll-out electric systems also feature ultra-thin wires, which will help keep the height of your floors low.