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Radiant Floor Heating
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement


There's something very comforting and soothing about having a warm rush of heat soften your steps within your home. Radiant floor heating systems can create that wonderful experience for you, and also contribute to lower heating bills.

There are two main types of radiant floor heating systems; electric and hydronic. Both systems are embedded into your floor, creating a warm quiet living space. With each system, heat is spread evenly throughout the house, without the stacking of heat that occurs with forced-air heating. This results in reduced heat loss through infiltration and eventually to lower heating bills. You will be able to lower the degrees on your thermostat, but feel cozier than ever. Each system allows you to control the temperature according to your needs. Most systems use a relay control operated with standard thermostats.

Electric radiant systems heat your living space electrically from beneath your flooring. The system uses the heat preservation of your floor to disperse the heat. Gradually, the heat rises to the ceiling naturally, warming up your feet and body first. This creates a warm, gentle comfort. Electric radiant systems are a lot less expensive than hydronic heating systems. However, depending on the installation requirements and project size, the cost will vary. A professional contractor would be able to help you decide which system would work best for your conditions and save you the most money.

Hydronic systems use hot water pushed through plastic tubes beneath your floor to create the same warm and gentle feeling that electric systems provide. The temperature is controlled by regulating the flow of hot water, through the boiler that heats the water up and the pumps that keep the water circulating. One advantage to operating a hydronic floor system is that it offers you flexibility with your fuel source. You can even change your fuel source to save money. With electric systems, you will not have to pay for a boiler, but you cannot switch fuel sources.

Installation for both systems is very easy. Any type of floor construction can be used and most floor coverings are compatible as well. Tile is the most efficient floor covering because it is the most conductive with heat. You want to select a floor covering that allows your heat to rise. Other good floor covering conductors include hardwood floors, carpet and padding, and vinyl. Before making any final decisions, I recommend speaking to a professional or reviewing the system installation requirements to be sure that your floor covering will work efficiently.

Installing a radiant floor heating system is definitely something that requires much skill and knowledge. Most local codes require that a licensed contractor be responsible for such installations. If you are eager to experience the comfort of warm illumination surrounding your body, all while saving on your utility bills, then you are ready to invest in a radiant floor heating system.

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