Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Your Complete Guide to Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Do you need a convenient, effective and multi-functional method of heating your home? If this is the case, then you could explore using radiant floor heating systems. These systems employ thermal energy and electromagnetic waves to heat the floor without warming up the air in a room. It means that you will have warm rooms without cold spots and drafts.

In this, we are going to take a closer look at radiant heating systems by detailing how the systems work, what type of options are available, benefits and drawbacks, as well as costs. We will also present a comparison of radiant heating systems to other heated options, discuss some widespread myths related to under-floor heating and share useful recommendations for choosing a proper solution.

How Radiant Floor Heating Works

Radiant floor heating utilizes the thermal radiation principle, which involves the transmission of heat from a hot surface to a colder one by electromagnetic waves. Although these waves cannot be seen by the naked eye, they are actually felt as heat. For instance, when you stay close to a fireplace, you can sense the radiant heat emanating from its source.

This phenomenon is used by radiant heating systems to heat the room’s floor. The floor, in turn becomes a giant radiant panel that radiates warmth to the things and occupants of the room gently but effectively. These objects absorb and re-radiate the heat, which makes a constant temperature in all parts of that room.

The major advantage of radiant heating systems over conventional systems that heat air is they do not cause air currents or dust circulation, which can really affect quality and comfort for occupants. Radiant floor heating overcomes the noise and maintenance problems of ducts, vents, and fans as well.

Types of radiant heating systems 

There are two main types of radiant floor heating systems: hydronic and electric. All these types have tubes or wires under the floor to transmit heat, but they differ in both sources and methods of heating.

Hydronic Radiant Heating Systems

For hydronic radiant heating systems, the heated floors are warmed through hot water. The water is first heated by the boiler, or a plumbing device called the heater, and then it flows through an underfloor piping arrangement. Installation of pipes may be done in various ways depending on the type and mode of installation. Some common methods are

  1. Wet installation: The pipes are set in a concrete slab or an upper layer of lightweight concrete on top of wooden subfloors. This approach includes a huge thermal capacity that enables the storage and release of heat over an extended period but demands more installation time and material inputs.
  1. Dry installation: The pipes get attached to the underside of a subfloor or lay between two layers of plywood. This approach is quicker and simpler to set up, but it has a smaller thermal mass that may require additional insulation.

However, hydronic radiant heating systems are comparatively costlier and complicated to set up compared with electric versions, but in the long-term perspective, they prove more economical and energy-efficient for large areas as well as whole house thermal coverage. Energy sources, such as gas, oil, and wood. 

Electric Radiant Heating Systems

One type of electric floor heating system is the use of an electric wire or cable to warm up a floor. The wires then connect to a thermostat and power source before being laid down under the floor in such uniformity. The wires are installed in various designs relating to the floor type and installation process. Some common methods are:

  1.  Mat installation: The wires are already connected to a mesh or plastic mat, which can be unrolled and cut in accordance with the area of flooring. This method is practical and easy to set up, but it may not cover all the floor or suit odd shapes.
  1.  Wire installation: The loose wires can be arranged in any arrangement, and they may as well be fastened to the floor. This approach is more customizable and adaptable. However, it can be time-consuming and difficult.

In comparison, electric radiant floor heating systems cost less and are easier to install than hydronic ones; however, for whole-house or large areas applications, they have higher running costs. More appropriately, electric systems are designed for limited areas and auxiliary heating like bathrooms, kitchens or basements.

Benefits of Underfloor Systems

Underfloor heating systems have many advantages over conventional heating systems, such as:

  1. Comfort: Underfloor heating gives a uniform and delightful climate for the whole room, whereby there are no cold spots or drafts. The heat is unobtrusive and evenly spread throughout the room from base to top, resulting in a comfortable sense of warmth Additionally, underfloor heating does away with the distracting noise and maintenance issues resulting from ducts, vents and fans.
  1.  Efficiency: Thermal radiation, instead of convection, is used in underfloor heating; this makes it more efficient than conventional systems because heat loss and the number of times air will be circulated are reduced. Underfloor heating also helps to reduce the thermostat temperature without feeling cold, which can translate into energy and cost-saved. However, the hydronics are very efficient since they use cheap and renewable energy sources to heat up water.
  1. Health: Air quality and health of the occupants also improve by reducing dust, allergens, and humidity levels in the room through underfloor heating. The other advantage of underfloor heating is that it keeps the floor surface dry and warm, thereby eliminating growth conditions for mould, mildew, or bacteria. The underfloor heating is also good for people having asthma, allergies or arthritis since it does not burden the respiratory system and joints.
  1.  Aesthetics: Underfloor heat is hidden and displaces no space or affects the interior decoration of the chamber. Second, underfloor heating lets you install different flooring materials like tiles, wooden floors or carpets but also laminate. Most floor coverings are suitable for use together with underfloor heating, provided that they have good thermal conductivity and long service life.

Disadvantages of Radiant Floor Heating

Despite the many benefits of underfloor heating, there are also some drawbacks to consider, such as

  1. Cost: However, the cost of installing underfloor heating systems is usually higher than that for other conventional means, such as hydronic systems, because a lot of materials and labor are involved. Insulation and floor preparation needed for underfloor heating are part of the additional cost. In large regions and whole-house heating, electric systems may be more costly to run than hydronic ones.
  1.  Installation: However, the installation of underfloor heating is more problematic and takes longer than typical heat sources such as hydronics which require much plumbing and wiring. In addition, alterations of the current floor structure and height may be necessary to install underfloor heating systems that would influence doors, windows furniture. On the other hand, underfloor heating is best installed at the time of new construction or major renovation as it can be more complicated
  1. Repair: Repair of underfloor heating is often more difficult and costly than conventional systems, particularly if the fault lies beneath it. This may involve removing the flooring and taking out the whole underfloor heating system, which can incur damage to both of these. Leaks, punctures or corrosion on underfloor heating are more likely to cause damage, thereby affecting the performance and safety of such a system.