Radiant heat is a very efficient way to heat your home. It involves moving heat through the floor or walls. This heats your body directly, as well as warming the adjacent air. Radiant heat effectively distributes warmth to the area where it is most needed, closer to the floor, where the people are.

Radiant floor heating systems are best installed during building construction when the concrete slab and subflooring is being installed. It can also be installed during a remodel project, but it may be more difficult and expensive to install at that time.

Here we will look at the most popular types of radiant floor heating systems, their pros and cons, and how to find the best system for your house.

Radiant Floor Heating Overview

There are two types of radiant heat systems: electric and hydronic. The electric system is best for small areas and additions, while the hydronic system is the most energy efficient. Radiant floor heating is an efficient, cost-effective, consistent, and quiet way to heat your home.

Electric Radiant Floor Heat

An electric radiant heating system is made up of a net of electric wires that heat the subfloor underneath the finished floor. The wire net can be installed on top of the subfloor or directly under the flooring material.

The heat created by the resistance wires rises from the floor, keeping the floor warm and heating the air in the room as the heat rises. An added benefit is that the floor feels comfortable to feet, making the room feel warmer.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heat

Plastic piping and hot water provide the heat in this type of system. The pipe, usually 1/2″, is run under the floor – either embedded in concrete, or mounted under the subfloor. Additional structural support for the floor may be necessary, due to the added weight of the water running through the pipe.

The hot water comes from either a boiler or a hot water heater. A solar hot water heating system is a great way to heat this water without adding a lot of money for energy.

Both systems provide a consistent source of heat that can be more efficient than standard forced-air systems. The heat rises from the floor to the ceiling, getting cooler as it goes up, keeping the area where people are warmer. Traditional air systems blow the heated air up to the ceiling, where the heat dissipates, and the air then sinks to the floor as it cools. This leaves the hot air up top and the cooler air down near the floor.

Radiant Floor Pros

  • A radiant floor heating system is quiet and invisible. With no fan noise, vents, or wall units, no one will even know the system is there.
  • The hydronic system is up to 30% more energy efficient than a standard forced-air system. This can help offset the expense of the initial installation.
  • A radiant system provides even heating throughout a space. There are no hotspots.
  • Floors are comfortable to walk on, even in bare feet, no matter what type of floor covering is used.
  • There is no air movement to distribute allergens throughout the house, making the air cleaner and healthier.
  • The electric system can be used in additions where it isn’t feasible to extend the home’s central heating system.

Radiant Floor Cons

  • The system is not as effective when used under carpet. The insulation provided by the carpet and pad can prevent the heat from reaching the room.
  • You will need to install a separate air conditioning system for cooling during the warmer months.
  • The electric system is too expensive to operate for a whole house. It requires too much power to be cost-effective in a large installation.
  • The hydronic system is expensive to install and requires that the floor and subfloor be torn out to accommodate the piping. It doesn’t work well in a remodel project.

Radiant Floor System Reviews

Both electric and hydronic systems are best installed by professionals. They will know the best type of system to use and will make sure it is installed correctly. Consult your local HVAC contractor to make sure this type of heating is ideal for your situation.

The electrical system can be purchased at most hardware stores in a kit that covers a certain amount of space. Some of the kits include a thermostat to make DIY installation easy. You simply roll out the wire mat under the flooring, connect it to power, and turn it on.

The hydronic system should be installed by a plumber to ensure that all the piping connections are properly made to avoid leaks. The system is not available in a complete kit, so consult with a plumber to make sure you get all the parts and equipment you need.

Reviews for the electronic heating system kits can be found online. Be sure to check several sources to verify the information, and make sure the sites are reputable. Look for ease of installation and a complete system that doesn’t require a lot of connections.