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Radiant Floor Heating

There are numerous benefits to having radiant floor heat. Aside from never having to step onto a cold floor again, radiant heating systems don’t dry out the air, they’re efficient and they help keep the air clean since they don’t use a fan to blow dust-filled air around. You can install a radiant heating system to help keep your entire house warm or just focus on a few rooms that need some extra warmth. There are two main radiant heat systems: hydronic radiant heating and electric radiant floor heating. Both can be used with a variety of different floors, including:

  • Vinyl

  • Stone

  • Tiles

  • Hard Wood

  • Laminate

  • Carpet

Each system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Which system you choose will depend on your heating needs. 



Electric Radiant Heat
If you choose to install an electric radiant heating system in your home, then there are two different types of cables you could be dealing with. One type system consists of cables coated with electrical insulation. Another type of electrical radiant heat system is similar to an electric blanket, with the electrical cables woven into fabric mats. While an electrical system can be used to heat an entire home, this type of radiant heater is most often used to heat specific rooms in the home. One advantage to installing electrical radiant mats is the fact that they do not need to be buried in concrete. Instead, you can install these mats directly below the surface of your floor or carpet. However, because the cables need to lie close together in order for there to be an even distribution of heat, electric cables can be a more expensive option per square foot. Yet, when it comes to installation, electric mats are quicker and cheaper to install than insulated cables.


Hydronic Radiant Floor Heat
The second way for you to put a radiant floor heating system into your home is through a hydronic system. Essentially a hot water radiant heat system, it uses boiled water to heat your floors.  In addition to installing the tubes that the water travels through, this type of radiant floor warming also requires the installation of a boiler to heat the water. The flexible tubes for a hydronic  system are usually buried in concrete under your floor. Hydronic systems are generally more expensive to install than electric systems because you need to purchase and put in a boiler. However, unlike the electric system, hydronic radiant floors can use or be changed to a variety of different fuel sources including gas, electricity, oil and solar energy. If you are looking to heat a large area or your entire home, then a hydronic system is usually the better choice.


Concrete vs. Below Surface
Older versions of radiant floor systems almost always meant that the tubes or cables had to be buried in concrete. Nowadays, you have a choice between a radiant heater that is buried underneath your floor in concrete or one that sits just below your floor or carpet. Although installation is obviously easier if you are simply laying down an electric mat, there are some benefits to using a system that is embedded into concrete. If you are looking to install a radiant heating system to heat your entire home, then using a slab system may be a better choice. While some people may be put off by the fact that radiant heating systems laid in concrete can take a few hours to heat up, this can actually work to your advantage. Thanks to a little thing called thermal mass, the floor is able to retain its heat much better. If your electricity is charged at different rates throughout the day, then you can heat your house during the off peak hours and maintain a comfortable temperature during the peak hours without using much energy. However, if you are only looking to heat a small area occasionally, then quick heating systems, which heat up within an hour, are probably the more convenient option. If you are using the radiant heat system under wood flooring, though, then you should stay away from quick heating floors. The rapid temperature change can place a lot of stress on the wood; use a concrete slab radiant heat system instead to maintain your floors.



Radiant Heating Tips
1. If you are building or remodeling your home, the sooner you decide to put in radiant floor heating, the better. Changing your floor plans after construction has started can quickly result in additional  costs and extra work. Save yourself the money and the hassle by knowing before construction begins where you would like radiant heating, what type of system you plan to install and whether you want a slab system or plan to install the radiant heaters directly under the floor.


2. Hiring a professional to install your radiant heating can definitely save you some worries but generally the systems are easy enough for you to install it yourself. If you plan on making this a DIY project, then make sure you draw a to-scale layout of exactly where the tubes or cables will go. If you are installing radiant heating throughout your entire home, it is a good idea to consider the placement of the tubes or cables on a room-by-room basis. This will let you allow to put extra heating in the rooms that need it.


3. For slab system radiant heating, make your installation easier by getting a radiant heating system that can be set in just one layer of cement instead of two. Also, to make the most of your heat, avoid using high thermal resistance floor coverings, like plush carpets and pads, which will keep your heating system from being affective.


4. Radiant heating systems are virtually unnoticeable. If you would like to keep yours that way, then consider placing the temperature controls in a closet. The thermostat works by sensor and does not  measure the room temperature, just the floor’s temperature. Therefore, you can hide it away.


5. To help keep your radiant heating in top shape, you may need to buy some extra radiant heating supplies. For those with a hydronic system, consider purchasing some radiant barrier insulation. This handy device wraps around the boiler and reflects the heat it produces rather than letting it escape. As a result, your system is more efficient and your energy costs are reduced.


6. If you have wood floors, or are planning on putting in wood floors, then look for radiant floor panels. These have been designed specifically for hardwood floorboards and will help give you the most heat without damaging your floor.


16 Things You Must Know About Radiant Floor Heating


1. What is radiant floor heating? 

Radiant floor heating is a comfortable and efficient form of heating where warm water circulates through flexible, specially designed tubing (PEX) installed under the floor. The heat radiates evenly up through the floor warming people and objects in the room and providing more comfort for less money. 


2. What are the major components in a radiant floor heating system?

Radiant floor heating systems will vary depending upon the needs of the client. However, there are similarities in most systems. All radiant floor heating systems have a heat source to heat the water. Most systems use either a natural gas or a propane boiler. The water is then circulated to the floors in the building through some type of piping or tubing. The flow of the water is controlled through a variety of mechanisms such as circulating pumps and zone valves which are directed by the thermostat to send the hot water to the  zones that are cold.


3. Can other types of hot water driven devices be used with a radiant floor?

Yes. Hydronic heating encompasses much more than radiant floors. Hub Plumbing Company can also design, provide and install hot water baseboards, hot water radiators and hot water towel racks.

These devices may be used for a number of reasons, including aesthetics, increased comfort, or lower cost.   


4. How does the building construction affect the design and performance of the heating system?

Obviously, the construction of a building greatly affects the performance of the heating system.

For example, a poorly insulated home will require a heating system to provide a much greater output of heat in order to maintain comfortable living temperatures.

Similarly, a home that has a large number of windows with southern exposure may require less heat in rooms that receive a great deal of passive solar heat.   


5. Can hydronic heating be used for ice removal and snow melting?

Yes. However, you must understand what is involved in melting snow and ice. First of all, it requires a lot of energy to do the job (around 110 -150 BTu's/sq. ft. vs. 25-30 to heat a typical house). Second, it takes quite some time to bring the surface temperature high enough to melt snow and ice, from a cold slab. If you have the time to wait, fine, but in critical areas, the slab must be held in an idle condition, closer to 30 deg. F., until melting is needed. This is usually done with a snow and ice sensor to turn the system on fully. Again, there is an energy cost to hold this idle condition.


6. Can I put a radiant floor on the top floor in my house?

Yes. You can put a radiant floor on the upper floors of any building using a couple of different methods. You can pour a lightweight concrete over the tubing on the upper floors.This adds to the weight of the upper floors and may need to be compensated for in construction. You can also put radiant floor pipe between joists on the upper floor.  

7. What makes radiant floor heating so comfortable?

Unlike traditional heating systems that just warm the air, radiant heating warms the floor and the objects in contact with the floor. The entire floor distributes a consistent, even, and quiet heating. There are no drafts and radiant floor heating takes the chill out of cold tile, marble and wood floors.


8. Can the floor get too hot?

No. A properly designed Radiant Floor Heating system will deliver comfortable warmth that's a pleasure to walk on - especially in bare feet! If additional heat is needed to satisfy the heat load, additional warmth can easily be added by installing radiant walls and/or ceilings.


9. If I have radiant floor heating, can I still have air conditioning?

Sure you can. In fact, separate heating and cooling systems really make the most sense. Radiant floor heating keeps the heat near the floor where it does the most good; and air conditioning ductwork is usually placed high up the wall where it is needed to cool your home. The result is optimal comfort and efficiency all year 'round.


10. Is radiant floor heating more expensive than the alternatives?

Yes. It will cost more to install, however it's important to remember that radiant floor heating can save 20 to 40 percent on your heating bills and significantly increase the resale value of your home. That, plus the increased comfort, make it worth the extra dollars for initial installation.


11. We've got allergies. Can a Radiant Floor System help?

For many, this is a resounding "Yes!" Our radiant heat system has no drafts, fans or blowers to circulate dust, dirt and other allergens throughout your home.

Warm Radiant Floors can eliminate the need for carpeting which is a breeding ground for dust mites, a very common cause of allergic respiratory disease.

The result is a clean, healthy environment—a must for people with allergies.


12. What rooms will benefit the most from a radiant heating system?

Generally the main living areas: dining rooms, family rooms, living rooms, kitchens and baths. These are the rooms that we spend the most time in, either sitting or standing in one spot for extended periods of time.  

13. How much fuel will a radiant heated building use compared to other types of heating systems?

Depending on the type of heat you are comparing it to, it can cost approximately 30% less to heat a building with a radiant floor heating system. And of course ,the other benefit being, that you will be much more comfortable while spending less on your heating bill.


14. What happens if a radiant floor freezes?

One potential drawback to using water in a heating system is the potential for damage due to freezing.This could occur in the event that the heating system failed or was switched off during extremely inclement weather.  Generally, the heating system would need to be off for several days for most houses to actually freeze. Portions of a hydronic heating system may freeze should it be poorly designed or installed in a manner that it is not sufficiently protected from the elements. However, it is common practice to add antifreeze and corrosion inhibitors to the heating system to prevent any problems of this sort. Hub Plumbing Company provides heat transfer fluid which is propylene glycol, a non-toxic antifreeze, formulated with corrosion inhibitors specifically for heating systems. When mixed with water in concentrations of 50% by volume, propylene glycol will provide freeze protection down to -31° Fahrenheit.

15. What kinds of floor treatments can I use over a radiant floor?

You can use any type of floor treatment you want. Radiant floor heat is compatible with tile, linoleum, carpeting, hardwood floors, etc. The only concern is that you are careful when nailing anything into the floor so you do not puncture the tubes that circulate the water...

16. How long will a radiant floor last?

A radiant floor will easily last the life of the building or longer when properly designed and installed.


Call Hub Plumbing to Quote your Radiant Floor Heating Project Today... (219) 663-2243

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