Radiant Floor Heat
Technology Snapshot &
Radiant floor heating can be extremely cost-effective and comfortable. There are
three types of radiant floor heat: radiant air floors, electric radiant floors,
and hot water radiant floors. Hot water radiant floors, or hydronic systems, are
the most cost-effective systems for homes or buildings in heating-dominated
climates. Hydronic systems heat water in a boiler and pump the heated water
through tubing underneath floors. Most find radiant floor heat to be one of the
most comfortable types of heating, because heat is evenly distributed from the
floor, warming up the feet and body first.
The benefits to radiant floor
heating are numerous and include increased levels of comfort due to the silent
operation of the system. Radiant floor
eliminates drafts and dust problems associated with forced air systems.
Additionally, radiant floor systems are invisible. There are no heat registers or radiators.
Estimated Cost Savings:
cost savings associated with the use of radiant floor heating range from 10-40%
on utility bills. Due to the fact that radiant heated floors distribute heat
evenly, homeowners can set their thermostat 2-4 degrees less than in a forced
air heating system, which leads to reduced energy costs. Contact your local
utility company to confirm what a 2-4 degree temperature decrease would equal in
Compared to other hydronic heating systems, radiant floor heating allows
for lower boiler temperatures, saving energy and increasing boiler life
expectancy. A 45-year life is not unusual.
With radiant floor heat, some floor coverings perform better than
others. Ceramic flooring is the most common. If you want carpeting, install a
thin carpet with dense padding and use as little carpeting as possible. Some
floors take longer to heat than others. If a floor is allowed to cool
completely, make sure to give adequate time for the floor to heat-up.
When working with
a hydronic system, it needs to circulate water continuously using valves and
manifolds. These valves and manifolds can be prone to mechanical and maintenance
issues as well as sedimentation. If a hydronic installation develops a leak, it
can be challenging to repair.
Radiant floor systems can also be used to cool spaces. Currently, the available
systems are only appropriate for dry climates.
(Getting It Done):
The three types
of radiant floor heating breakdown further when installed into "wet" or "dry"
installations. During the older form of installation, a "wet" installation,
cables or tubing are inserted within a solid floor. The solid floor can be a
layer of slab concrete, gypsum, or any other material that is installed on top
of a subfloor. When applying a "wet" installation consult a professional to
determine the floor's carrying capacity. In a "dry" installation, cables or
tubing run in the air space beneath the floor. "Dry" installations are
increasing in popularity due to the fact that they are cheaper and faster.
Be sure to get two or three (or more) bids from designers and/or contractors to gain immediate perspective on the actual costs of radiant
floor heat equipment installation in your area.
Videos On This Topic:
Retrofit Radiant Floor Heat from Above (2:17) - This Old House -
radiant floor heat is a great way to heat your home while reducing your monthly
energy bills. To find out the basics of retrofit installation, watch this short
video from This Old House.
Install Electric Radiant Heat (2:51) - This Old House -
Electric radiant heat is one of the three types of radiant floor heat that allow
you to heat your home without visible heat registers or radiators. In this
short video from This Old House, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey
explains how the technology works and how to install it in your home.
Articles on This Topic:
U.S. Department of Energy' Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:
U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:
Building Technologies Program - Radiant Floor Heat
Oregon Department of Energy - Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant Panel Association