The mere thought of walking barefooted on flooring that is perfectly heated to just the right temperature sounds almost too good to be accurate. Still, the reality is that it is true and a trendy choice among homeowners today. More often referred to as “radiant” flooring in the construction industry, it is sometimes called “underfloor” heating.
Heated floors don’t stop at only providing a comfortable journey for your bare feet. Still, they also serve as an added measure of energy efficiency for homes, keeping out the cold winter temperatures. Suppose you are considering the possibility of building your new home with radiant flooring in the kitchen and bathroom.
In that case, it’s good to be as knowledgeable as possible so that you will proceed confidently.
Heated, or Radiant Flooring–What it is
We tend to think that innovation is not new; in fact, it could not be much older than any form of heating technology. Heated flooring was a concept of the ancient Romans, who designed rooms in their houses with elevated marble floors raised high enough so that slaves could be underneath them, maintaining and fanning wood-burning fires.
The fires served to heat the marble overhead the slaves and under the feet of everyone else above. Radiant floor heat is just another form of providing heat to a room by positioning a suitable heating system under the floor that effectively conducts (and radiates) heat through the floor surface instead of through the air.
The conventional forced-air heating systems with which we have become most familiar rely on the air rather than a medium such as flooring to transport and convey heat.
Options in Radiant Heated Flooring
Among the most commonly seen types of radiant type floor heating today are classified as electric and hydronic. Electric radiant flooring provides heat via electric wires installed just below the flooring, and hydronic radiant flooring gets its heat from hot water tubes, which are carefully positioned under the flooring.
Of the two, its electric heating systems are typically the most frequently installed in homes today, as they are easier to install. This means that the upfront cost to get started is considerably less.
The flip side, however, is that electric underfloor heating is more expensive to operate. Generally, the prevalence of electric flooring has conventionally been confined to bathrooms, typically smaller rooms within a house.
Hydronic systems are much more affordable to operate, making them a better choice for larger areas like kitchens and other house rooms–even the entire house. The typical deal-breaker is that these water operating systems are a lot more expensive to install. They are complicated and require the installation of their dedicated water heater or boiler.
Why Install Radiant Floor Heating?
Radiant floor heat will generously warm your feet and even the rest of “you,” but it provides an excellent baseline of heating in an area that is often the most difficult to keep warm as heat rises.
What happens is that infrared radiation is generated in waves from the lowest most point of the room, which results in far less heat being wasted. In the conventional forced-air heating system, heated air rises, and once its temperature becomes more relaxed, it simply drops back down as cool air.
So radiant floor heating is a much more energy-efficient and comfortable way to heat a room.
Why Isn’t Everyone Installing Radiant Floor Heating Systems?
Radiant floor heating systems are the best inclusions of new home construction for apparent reasons. Unfortunately, these systems can be pretty tricky to install in homes where a floor is already in place and require removing existing flooring, which can often result in a completely new bed’s expense to boot.
Underfloor heating technology continues to seek ways in which Who can make improvements to this problem. Although some innovations like electric radiant pads that Who can install in between floor joists still require some access, which means you’ll need a crawl space or basement–otherwise, you’re still looking at tearing up the floor.
Determining the Best Types of New Flooring for Your New Underfloor Heating System
When it comes to the type of flooring materials that you can install above and under the floor heating system, all of the types of materials used for today’s flooring in homes work fine. And it doesn’t matter whether you are installing your flooring over an electrically operated system or one that operates by Hydronics–any flooring material that works well with one will work well with the other.
With that having been said, there are some types of flooring materials that work better and more efficiently than others. It’s good to think about which materials tend to be the best at sustaining their thermal-conducting capabilities with the least amount of change being produced to them. These are materials like stone, concrete, granite, and ceramic tile.
They possess superior conduction, transference, and the ability to retain heat well, yet their ability to withstand higher temperatures results in the least (or no) detectable change in their structure. To better illustrate this principle, Who would find the converse in different types of solid wood flooring in terms of suitable materials.
When exposed to such proximity to a source of on-and-off-again heat (and for such long periods,) wood floors will naturally shrink and expand in correlation to the temperature fluctuations. The effect will be flooring that permanently shows unwanted gaps between boards.
This certainly does not mean that the homeowner who is all about wood floors must do without to benefit from under the floor heating. It does mean, however, that wood flooring that is to be installed above radiant heating should be done so by a qualified flooring professional who is experienced in installing wood floors in such a way as to minimize the potential for shrinkage.
For vinyl and plastic laminate flooring, make sure you get detailed information about the exact product and its ability to withstand radiant heating. And if you have carpet, it’s just not worth it–carpeting can restrict the heat flow and make it counterproductive.