Most people that own heated floor systems prefer them over more traditional types of heating systems associated with the home for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is because radiant floor heating systems provide a very comfortable feeling and do not make any noise while in operation. They heat each and every room from the ground up giving warmth to the feet and the body first. This heat is also distributed evenly throughout the entire floor. This is what makes heated floors completely unique and different from other warming arrangements such as wood stove units, hot air systems and other types of radiators which only warm localised areas. Heating bills can be lowered quite substantially when a switch is made to this floor heating system as it prevents common problems such as drafts and the circulation of dust associated with forced air heating systems occurring. This is of special benefit to allergy sufferers and the likes who are looking to get rid of all the allergens lurking in their homes as well as prevent any future ones from gaining entry.
Radiant heated floor systems come perfectly equipped with a thermostat which can be set lower than first anticipated. This is because the surface area of the floor radiates the same amount of heat as the human body making you feel warm even though the temperature in the air might be moderately low. This heat is also radiated much longer than forced air heating systems. Another benefit of using a heated floor system is that it reduces the amount of outside air filtering into the structure of the home. Boiler temperatures can also be set lower which allows them to last much longer than usual and require less servicing. Homeowners using a heated floor system can see savings of up to 20% when compared to regular forced air systems. The greatest advantage for some is that, because heated floor mats are set under the floor, they are literally invisible. There are no heat registers or radiators to obstruct the layout of furniture and interior design.
There are three types of floor warming systems: electric, hydronic (hot water), and radiant air systems. Heating the air is not cost-effective as it cannot hold a sufficient amount of heat which is why radiant air under floor systems are rarely ever applied in the residential setting. On the other hand, floors with electric heating are normally only cost-effective when they are combined with time-of-use electric utility rates. In this situation, floor coverings such as concrete, which take longer to warm, can be heated up during off-peak hours when electricity rates are at their lowest.
This will enable the floor to remain warm during peak periods (usually in the evening and at night) and for up to ten hours without the need for any input of electrical power. This saves a significant amount of money on utility bills. Hot water-based (hydronic) under floor heating are the most popular type of this particular system. They pump heated water from a boiler through tubing laid in a patter beneath the floor. An advantage of the liquid-based system is that the water retains residual heat longer than electric wires. However, electric radiant floor heat is preferred by some because of the risk of leakages associated with the water-based system.
The flow of the hot water through each tubing can be regulated and the temperature controlled by a valve, pump or thermostat positioned in a specific zone. Many floor systems can also be controlled by a floor thermostat instead of a wall thermostat. Homes with this hot water system often keep the circulation pump running while the thermostat controls the boiler. Other, more advanced, types of controls can sense the temperature of the floor, the room and the outdoors to keep the home comfortable. These sophisticated versions are also known to use less fuel. Furthermore, hydronic systems can use a variety of energy sources to heat the water. One such source is geothermal energy which is very cost-effective in climates where the heating and cooling loads are similar in size. Small houses with small heating loads may benefit more from an ordinary gas water heater to supply the heated floor system. A solar heat system may also be very efficient for homes based in environments where sunlight is regularly received.
Radiant heat flooring can be installed in two different ways: either through a ‘wet’ installation or a ‘dry’ installation. ‘Wet’ installations involve embedding the tubing in a thick concrete slab set on the foundations of the home or in a thin lightweight layer of concrete that sits on top of a subfloor. With this setup the new floor should be set on solid ground. If it is not more floor support may be needed to deal with the extra weight. If in doubt, consult a professional engineer as they will be able to better determine the carrying capacity of the floor. In a ‘dry’ floor installation, the tubing or cables run in an air filled space underneath the floor.
This method is becoming more and more popular with homeowners because it is faster and less expensive to build. Dry floors also have a quicker thermal response time which basically means they heat up a lot faster. This is particularly useful if you require immediate such as when needing to use the kitchen or bathroom on short notice. A key factor to keep in mind is that heated floors require reflective insulation to be installed under the tubes. This is what directs the heat upwards through the floor and into the room. For correct and proper results, the do-it-yourself approach should not be attempted if you are not entirely skilled to perform the installation. In this case, it would be advisable to seek assistance from a reputable heating and electrical engineer with a wealth of experience and knowledge in home utility installations.
If you are in need of long lasting warmth and comfort then heated floor systems are an excellent way to go. As with any major home renovation, making choices that improve the value of the home while increasing energy efficiency makes for a very smart investment.