There’s almost nothing worse than stepping on a cold floor in the morning as it startles, confuses, and irritates you. There are some easy fixes such as an extra three pairs of socks or strewing blankets all about your room as a precaution. Luckily the easiest solution might be right in front of you, or below you so to speak in the form of in-floor heating. In floor heating sounds luxurious and comfortable but the product or concept is also very energy efficient. For those new to in floor heating or just looking for more information we present a brief introduction.
How the Process Works
In floor heating or underfloor heating involves installing water heated tubing or electric heating coils underneath a home’s floors. The most common type of flooring associated with radiant heat is tile but there are systems that integrate hardwood floors, laminate, and even carpet. Since heat rises, the tubes or coils running through the floor not only feel warm on your feet and toes, but the floor in essence heats the entire room in radiant fashion. To understand how efficient the system is, look at how a furnace only kicks out heat from a register that must fill the room but with radiant heating the floor is basically one giant vent. The process is also far from new as it’s been the preferred way of heating in Europe since the 70’s and evolved from the Ancient Romans use of pipes to warm their floors.
Different Types of In Floor Heating
While the types of flooring installed over top the underneath heating vary greatly, there are really only three different kinds of actual heating systems:
- Air Heated Floor Systems – air heated flooring systems are not a very economical choice in residential installations because the air is a poor heat conductor. Air heated underfloor heating is rare because it basically lacks one of the main benefits of the system – cost effectiveness. Air heated floor systems become a little more practical when combined with solar air heating systems but only when warming up a home during the day, but the process does exist.
- Electric Radiant Floors – The electric radiant flooring is somewhat popular because it can be wired directly into your home and controlled on the same circuitry as lights, fans, and other power equipment. This type of radiant floor heating consists of cables mounted to the sub-floor below or mats of electrically conductive plastic beneath the actual flooring. Perhaps the biggest drawback of electric radiant flooring is it’s main advantage – the fact it can be wired to the house greatly increases the electricity bill.
- Hydronic Radiant Flooring – The most popular and cost-efficient model of radiant flooring is hydronic. With this system a boiler pumps heated water through tubes laid out underneath the floor producing a warm surface and air temperature in the room.
Cost Effective to Install
To many consumers the installation cost of underfloor heating seems insurmountable even though they’ve never actually researched it. Typically a process that adds comfort to the home while lowering bills comes at a hefty price but surprisingly in floor heating is very affordable. Depending on the size of your home and the type of underfloor heating installed a good measuring stick to start for the cost of the project is about $3 per square foot. A total cost over an entire home is typically in the $5,000 to $14,000 range but a simple installation in a bathroom might be under $700 total. One thing to remember though is that after the installation of in floor heating, consumers will see lower heating bills for the duration while almost never having to perform any floor heating maintenance tasks.
How In Floor Heating Lowers Utility Bills
Radiant heat feels the most comfortable at lower temperatures which enables you to lower your thermostat in the cold weather months. On top of that since the heat is distributed closes to where you live – the floor – your entire body will feel warmer without having to overwork your furnace. It’s true that electrical in floor heating systems will raise your electricity bills but the hydronic systems save both energy and fuel. Plus when the whole floor serves as a radiator, lower water temperatures are needed and the boiler will have a longer lifespan because it doesn’t have to work as hard.
The No Maintenance Approach
Radiant floor heating has little, if any, maintenance involved depending on the type of system. The radiant flooring is a closed system so it basically does infinite laps while keeping you warm. Of course pipes may become corroded over time in hydronic units but that’s a sign that the system has gone from closed to open and will need an inspection and repair. Also as with any pump, valves may go bad and other issues might arise but that’s more on the pump manufacturer than the actual flooring.
While a maintenance free flooring system and lower utility bills are definitely nice, the comfort provided by a radiant floor has to be its biggest advantage. When you think about being snuggled up on a couch watching a movie on a cold winter night, imagine all the heat lost as the hot air travels from a vent through the air until it finally reaches your body. On the flip side, imagine the heat coming from beneath you on the entire floor, circulating over your entire person as it rises and warms up the entire area around you.
When looking to replace your current flooring down the line, perhaps it’s time to seek advice advice from a HVAC professional. As we’ve stated above, the advantages go well beyond just having warm tootsies in the morning and extend to lowered utility bills, an overall warmer home, and a worry-free attitude…about your in floor heating at least.