Radiant Heat Flooring
Radiant heating systems involve supplying heat directly to the floor. 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 ducts. The lack of moving air can also be advantageous to people with severe allergies.
Ceramic tile is the most common and effective floor covering for radiant floor heating. It conducts heat well from the floor and stores heat long after the heating system has been turned off. Measuring less than 1/8″thick, these new systems are embedded directly into the same thinset cement used to set tile or stone. Laminated and Engineered wood products are more dimensionally stable than solid wood flooring making them another option for radiant floor heating. However, there are special precautions that need to be taken before the flooring is installed.
Although radiant heating systems can be installed over a wood subfloor, they are more cost-effective if they include a significant thermal mass, such as a thick concrete floor. Most electric utility companies offer time-of-use rates. Time-of-use rates allow you to “charge” the concrete floor with heat during off-peak hours (approximately 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.). If the floor’s thermal mass is large enough, the heat stored in it will keep the house comfortable for eight to ten hours, without any further electrical input (particularly when daytime temperatures are significantly warmer than nighttime temperatures). This saves a considerable number of energy dollars compared to heating at peak electric rates during the day.
Radiant heat floors may also make sense for additions to homes for which it would be impractical to extend the heating system into the addition. However, homeowners should examine other options, such as mini-split heat pumps, which operate more efficiently and have the advantage of also providing cooling. In older homes, radiators take up valuable space, especially in small bathrooms. Radiant floor heating is a great way to remove the radiator without the expense of updating the entire heating system.