The ins and outs of heated flooring!

Radiant floor heating certainly isn’t new–like toilets, the ancient Romans were able to enjoy this comfort of modern life by stoking fires underneath their marble floors. Despite being an idea from antiquity, heated floors can prove to be much more efficient than conventional heating systems. 

Heat from flooring systems aren’t lost to surrounding surfaces, and warm you from the feet up–unlike conventional air systems that will push warm air up to the ceiling, keeping the lower part of a room colder than may be comfortable. And say goodbye to dust-related allergies, as heated floors won’t blow dust up into the air.

We’ve got the need-to-know info on heated flooring, so start here if you’re curious about this alternative form of heating for your home. It’s important to understand the different systems, their pros and cons and their cost!

Hydronic Systems vs. Electric Systems

There are two types of radiant floor heating (RFH) systems to know: electric systems and hydronic systems. Hydronic systems pump heated water under the floor to keep it warm, while electric systems use electricity. Each system has its pros and cons: an electric system is easier and cheaper to install but more costly to operate, whereas hydronic systems aren’t expensive to operate but require a big investment in their installation. Due to their respective operational costs, electric systems are good for smaller spaces (think small, single rooms–like the bathroom) and hydronic systems are best fit for large rooms.

Costs and Maintenance 

A hydronic heating system can cost a few thousand more to install in a room than your typical forced-air system. Note that if you install a hydronic RFH system, you will also require a boiling unit. If one isn’t already present in the home, you will need to eat the cost. As stated above, RFH systems are more energy efficient, and despite the high cost of installation, your hydronic system is more efficient and will last longer than a forced-air system. Your average furnace can last up to 25 years, but an RFH system can typically operate up to 40 years.

How much maintenance does a hydronic system need? Have your boiler checked each year, and hire a professional if you run into any issues–a hydronic system is too complicated for the average person to fix. An important thing to remember is that if there is a serious problem you may need to replace the system in full, which can be very costly.

About Your Floors

These systems are easiest to install as a home is being built. If installing in an existing home, you will have to tear up your floor! When laying a new floor, it’s best to stick with materials that have thermal conducting properties to get the most out of your RFH. Go with ceramic tile for something that will look good and conduct heat–but stay away from carpet, which will reduce the flow of heat.

Be careful with wood flooring; the fluctuating heat can cause the wood to shrink and expand, which will leave gaps in your floor. But that doesn’t put wood off limits! If you want to go with wooden flooring, have the person installing your floor manage the potential for wood shrinkage.