Like many other technologies, radiant floor heat is one of those products that was once considered an expensive luxury but has become much more affordable and easier to install. Radiant floor heat can be installed under many floor covering surfaces such as hardwood flooring, tile, carpet, vinyl and more. There are very sophisticated hydronic whole house radiant heat systems that recirculate hot water but the focus of this post is on electric systems that are simpler to install and generally used during remodeling projects. The most popular place to install radiant floor heat is in a bathroom where tile floors are typically found.
When remodeling areas where tiled floors will be installed, say a Master Bathroom, these systems can provide a warm alternative to cold tiled surfaces. Radiant floor heat systems can be installed directly on plywood, concrete or cement backer board substrates and even under the subfloor. The installation of a radiant floor heat system may raise the overall finished floor height anywhere from 1/8”- 3/4” depending on the exact system and manufacturer selected. This needs to be accounted and adjusted for prior to installation. These systems typically offer a warranty ranging from 15-25 years, again depending on the system type and manufacturer.
There are two common radiant floor heating system types being installed. The first includes the braided wire heating element with mounting clips in which the wire is placed on the floor using the clips and run back and forth at a specified interval. The wire ties into a wall mounted controller in which the user can set timers and temperature. This system is perfect for irregular floor plans and small areas, but can be used anywhere a radiant floor heater is desired.
The second is the mat style. This system requires a room or area layout prior to the fabrication of the mat. The mat is then custom made to match the dimensions provided. The mat system consists of the mat with the wiring embedded and leads for the wall mounted controller. Once the radiant heat system is installed the tile can be "thin-set" into place just like a normal tile installation.
Radiant floor heat systems provide clean, energy efficient floor warming that only draws as much energy as is needed to maintain your predetermined temperature on the floor surface. A typical system will consume an average of 12 to 16 watts per square foot, depending on installation specifics. Radiant heating has a number of advantages: it is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through inefficient ductwork. The lack of moving air can also be advantageous to people with severe allergies.
Overall, radiant floor heating is an inexpensive option for your next home improvement project. Keep in mind this is just a taste of what is available on the market. As with all products that you are thinking about using be sure to do your research to find the best possible product for your specific application.