Have you been considering radiant floor heating for your home or building? If so, you’ve come to the right place. As colder weather starts, heating systems start kicking in. While they can help warm up a home, they don’t always provide the most sufficient or cleanest heating, that is, unless you have a radiant floor heating system installed.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about heated floors and radiant heat, including how radiant floor heating works, the benefits and downsides, and more.
What is Radiant Floor Heating? How Does Radiant Floor Heating Work?
Radiant flooring is a form of heating that involves installing a network of either water tubes or electric heating cables under the floor’s surface.
Using thermal radiation and electromagnetic waves, a radiant floor heating system warms up a room by heating the floor directly rather than warming the air in the room. Radiant systems heat the floor, and that heat radiates up and is absorbed by other objects in the room, helping to warm the entire space efficiently.
In short, heated floors use radiant heat technology to make the floors warm, and the heat from the floors rises and disperses throughout the room.
Why Install a Radiant Floor System?
While winter signifies the end of allergy season for most, those who suffer from allergies ranging from dust to pet dander will continue to struggle. Air heating systems are known to aggravate these symptoms. Radiant flooring, as mentioned previously, doesn’t rely on ductwork and vents, which can help eliminate that concern and provide cleaner, safer heating for allergy sufferers.
Traditional heating systems also present another common household problem: inconsistent heating. The location of the vents determines heating, leading to some areas being warmer than others. Underfloor heating distributes heat through the entire floor, creating an evenly heated room with no cold drafts. This makes them a more efficient and cost-effective heating solution.
Types of Radiant Floor Heating
When considering radiant heat flooring systems, there are two primary types: electronic and hydronic.
Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Systems
Hydronic systems use heating pipes under the floor that are heated by a boiler system to heat the floors. The long-term cost of running the system is less expensive than an electric system, however, the installation is much more costly. Hydronic systems take longer to install than electric systems and generally work best with new builds versus installing them into an existing home or building. Unlike the electric system, a hydronic system will require regular maintenance.
Electric Radiant Floor Heating Systems
An electric radiant floor heating system uses electric heating wires to heat the floors. Installation is quick and incredibly energy efficient. Electric systems are also cost-effective and less expensive to install (compared to other heating systems), especially when considering the long-term electricity costs. Electric systems also require no ongoing maintenance. They’re installed and ready to go.
Electric Heated Floors from Warmup
Founded over 25 years ago, Warmup is a UK-based manufacturing PLC dedicated to creating innovative smart controls and underfloor heating solutions. They focus on electric heating systems that offer solutions for every project, room, and floor type.
The DCM-PRO is one option that combines the DCM-PRO Heating Cable and Membrane with the 6iE Smart WiFi Thermostat. It is the only UL-approved Membrane System in North America and offers the highest heating outputs, making it one of the best floor heating systems Warmup offers.
The Warmup Foil system is ideal for carpet, laminate, engineered wood, and other floating floor options. It doesn’t require any self-leveling and is thin enough that it won’t bring your floors higher. The In-Slab Cable system is designed for installation in concrete slabs between 2″ to 4″ thick.
They offer heating systems for driveways that melt snow and ice, keeping driveways oriented from winter weather. These systems work with concrete, asphalt, and even pavers.
Sounds interesting? These are just some of the products offered. Check out our website for everything else we offer.
8 Benefits of Underfloor Systems
Under floor radiant heating systems offer many different benefits. Here are some of the top reasons to consider installing the system in your home.
1. Invisible Hardware in Livable Areas
Unlike HVAC systems, space heaters, radiators, and other heating options, underfloor systems are built to be discreet. As a result, they’re virtually invisible in your living spaces, making them an aesthetically appealing heating option.
2. Energy-Efficient and Cost-Effective
Unlike gas or boiler-based systems, radiant heating systems are energy-efficient and cost-effective. Traditional radiators have to be heated as high as 167 degrees Fahrenheit before they’re able to heat a room. A radiant heating system only has to get around 84 degrees Fahrenheit to warm the entire space. With duct-based heating systems, you’ll always have a bit of duct loss as well.
However, with radiant heating, the floors are heated directly, resulting in less lost energy. Radiant floors are so energy efficient that they save an average of 15% on heating bills.
3. Smart Thermostat Compatibility
At Warmup, our smart thermostats are compatible with Creston and Control 4 home automation systems. They also work with Alexa and Google, making them easy to integrate into your existing systems. Using a smart thermostat, you can program your radiant floors on a preset schedule to provide reliable and consistent temperatures to your home or building.
4. Fewer Limitations on Interior Design
With radiant floor heating, you can enjoy your entire space without bulky radiators hanging on the wall. Your design freedom opens up when you don’t have to worry about designing around radiators.
5. Maintenance Free
Electric-based radiant floor heating systems generally do not need any ongoing servicing or maintenance. After they’re installed, they shouldn’t require any servicing. This makes them a worry-free, low-maintenance heating option.
6. Compatible with All Types of Flooring
Radiant heated floors are compatible with all types of flooring. It doesn’t matter if you want wood, laminated, stone, tile, carpet, or something else – radiant underfloor heating can work for your preference.
- Tile & Stone: DCM-PRO – highest heat output cable, anti-fracture membrane for tile crack prevention
- Vinyl / LVT: StickyMat or DCM-PRO
- Laminate, engineered wood, carpet: foil – no thinset or leveler required
- Concrete: in-slab cable
7. Ease of Installation
Electric-based radiant floor heating systems are a breeze to install anytime flooring is being installed. There are options for professionals and DIYers alike.
8. Air Quality
Radiant heat is a much better alternative when it comes to air quality. Radiators cause high temperatures, which can reduce oxygen levels. Plus, the circulation from air rising and falling gets dust going around in circles, which is not good for air quality. On the other hand, radiant floors keep the air fresh and don’t contribute to the circulation of dirt or debris.
3 Disadvantages of Radiant Floor Heating
There are many upsides to radiant floor heating, but there are also some downsides to consider.
1. Having to Replace Old Flooring
To install a radiant heating system, you’ll have to remove and replace your existing floors. This is why it’s best to install floor heating systems when you’re already in the process of renovating or installing new floors.
2. Installation Time
You usually have to apply a self-leveling compound on top of your floor heating system, and this compound has to be totally dry before you can put the floor covering on. The dry time takes around a day or two. (If you’re looking at a water-based system, the installation time is a bit longer).
The DCM-PRO system is “ready to tile”; the project can be completed in 1 day. The FOIL system does not require any thinset or leveler making it possible to install and use same-day.
3. Floor Height Issues
Warmup radiant flooring systems range from adding no height (foil under carpet) to 7/8″ in height (ultralight + DCM-PRO with leveler). Additionally, most people also add some insulation boards to maximize the system’s efficiency, adding another inch to the floor. As a result, radiant floors cause a slight height loss, so, if you’re thinking about installing radiant heating in a room that’s already short, this could potentially be an issue.
How to Install Heated Floors
Installation depends on the product you choose. You must follow the directions carefully. Otherwise, the system may not work properly. For a general idea, the installation is as follows:
Electric Heated Floor Systems
You can choose either mat or wire-based electric radiant floor heating systems. In both cases, the system is installed right onto a layer of insulation. Some radiant systems have a self-adhesive backing or rails. Others come with a kit that includes specialized tape. Either way, the system is installed on a layer of insulation. Then, after testing the system and connecting it to electricity, you can put your floor on top of it.
1. Find the Electrical Power
Electric heated floors cannot be connected to any outlet. They require GFCI-protected outlets installed by a qualified electrician following the National Electrical Code and the local codes in your area.
2. Prepare Subfloor
Next, prepare the subfloor, by removing any old flooring and glue. More specific subfloor preparation depends on the type of subflooring. For optimal performance, you will also want to use Warmup Insulation Boards.
3. Install the Membrane
Install your chosen membrane using the correct adhesive, as listed in the instructions of your chosen heating system.
4. Test and Install the Heating Cable
Test the heating cable and floor sensor to ensure it is working properly. Once the operation is confirmed, you can begin laying the cable according to directions.
5. Apply Thinset
Apply a thin layer of waterproof thinset between membrane runs and over the cable joints, ensuring the membrane cavities are filled.
6. Cover Thinset With Waterproof Tape
Apply waterproof tape to the thinset using a trowel to remove any air caps or creases, taking care not to damage or dislodge the cable.
7. Install Flooring
Install the chosen flooring according to instructions.To learn more about how to install radiant floor heating—and to gain a more thorough explanation on the installation process—check out our ultimate guide to radiant floor heating installation. It goes into more detail for each step of the process and provides additional tips on how to make the process easier.
Tile Same Day With Any Size Tile
Tile is an excellent flooring choice for electric radiant floor heating. You can even install it on the same day you install the heating system, with any size tile.
Hydronic Heated Floor Systems
In a hydronic system, pipes and a boiler are installed beneath the floor. There are lots of moving parts in hydronic systems, so they often require a mechanical engineer to help create and design the system.
The Best Areas of a Home to Install Radiant Heating
Warmup systems are designed to be controlled per room making them a very energy-efficient option for supplemental or primary heating. By only heating the spaces you are using, while you are using them, you can drastically cut your energy savings.
Bathrooms are a terrific room to install a floor heating system in, because no one likes stepping out of a shower onto a freezing floor. No matter where you are located, tile is always cold to the touch. Bathrooms generally have tile floors, damp towels, and lots of humidity, making them cold – especially in the fall and winter. Heated floors in the bathroom help keep the bathroom comfortable year-round.
Kitchens generally have cold tile flooring. They also tend to have a bit of humidity too. As a result, kitchens can get cold in the fall and winter, making heated floors a great option to consider. The kitchen is a great place to consider radiant floor heating as it is by and large one of the most used rooms in a home.
Everyone loves a cozy bedroom, and nothing makes a room cozier than toasty temperatures. Radiant flooring is a terrific way to keep the bedroom warm without cranking up the HVAC or resorting to unsafe options like space heaters.
Most people don’t think about their garage when considering a radiant floor heating system. However, having heated floors in your garage can help control snow in the winter and keep your garage comfortable when you’re working on your car or hanging out.
You will not want to leave your home office once you install heated flooring. With so much time spent at our desks, home offices are a great place to invest in home upgrades that bring lasting comfort.
Basements are often damp and cold in the cooler months. However, with a radiant floor heating system, it can stay comfortable throughout the entire year. In addition, since heat rises, having a radiant system in your basement can help keep your whole house warmer.
Sunrooms are excellent rooms during the spring and summer. It’s a place to enjoy the outdoors without direct exposure to the elements. Sunrooms often have lots of windows to keep the room cool during the warmer months. However, those same windows can make the sunroom a frigid area during the winter. Heated floors in the sunroom can help make the room accessible and comfortable year-round.
If you live in an area with lots of snow and ice, a radiant heating system under your driveway is an excellent option for you. When you install a radiant heating system under your driveway, you don’t have to worry about ice and snow anymore. Instead, you simply turn on your system and let it melt away the ice and snow from your driveway.
Tiny Homes and Mobile Homes
Many love to explore the world in an RV or mobile home, while others like to make their journeys a bit more permanent with a tiny home on wheels, or just one a nice property somewhere in the woods. Radiant floor heating offers either a powerful heating solution no matter the location or environment.
A Tree House!
If you can dream it, we can heat it! Who wouldn’t love a year-round treehouse? Colder months don’t necessarily have to signal an end to outdoor fun. With radiant heating, your kids can continue to enjoy their treehouse, even when the cooler weather rolls in. (The same applies to adult treehouses, too!)
Electric Radiant Heating Compared to Other Heating Alternatives
What are some of the alternatives to other heating systems? How does radiant floor heating compare?
Furnace and Forced Air
Almost everyone is familiar with furnaces and forced air systems. Forced air systems are typically HVAC systems that use gas or electricity to produce heat and push it through ductwork to heat the home. While they heat a home quickly, they can be noisy, unsightly, and cause a slew of allergy issues. The heat is also concentrated towards the top of the room, meaning you’ll have to crank up the heat higher (and use more energy) to keep your room warm.
On the other hand, radiant heat systems operate at lower temperatures than forced-air systems and eliminate parasitic heat loss, saving you tons of money on energy bills. They also don’t have the same issues with allergies since there’s no air blowing around. Radiant heating systems might take a bit longer to heat your home, but the heat is sustained, which leads to more stable temperatures and energy bills.
Boilers and Water-Based Systems
Boilers heat water to turn it into steam. Then, it pushes that steam through the home to heat it. Compared to electric-based systems, water-based systems take longer to install, require regular maintenance, take longer to heat up and cool down, and are usually only an option for brand new builds.
Electric baseboards and radiant heat might seem similar, but there are many differences to consider. Electric baseboards are generally two to eight feet long and are either 120 volts or 240 volts, using convection to heat the room. Installing electric baseboards is cheaper than installing a radiant heating system, however, the long-term costs are usually much higher because they aren’t as efficient. In fact, it costs two to three times as much to heat a room using an electric baseboard than a radiant floor heating system.
In hybrid HVAC heating systems, also called dual-fuel systems, a heat pump is backed up by a combustion furnace. It uses the heat pump option unless the temperatures drop, at which point the combustion furnace kicks in. These systems do a great job of ensuring your home stays warm no matter what. However, these systems are expensive to install and often require a bit of maintenance. They also have the same downsides as forced air systems.
Space heaters are cheap and portable. You simply plug them into an outlet, and they start to work. They’re ideal for quick heating in a pinch. However, they present a serious fire and burning hazard. They’re also easy to trip over and can cause your breaker to shut down. They also only heat one area of space. Radiant floor heating doesn’t have any of these disadvantages. Instead, heated floors heat your entire home safely and efficiently.
How Does Radiant Floor Heating Perform?
We’ve already talked a bit about how radiant heating compares to other options, but it’s worth repeating. Radiant floor heating systems are energy efficient and do a terrific job of providing sustained and reliable heating for your whole home. However, there are a few ways to ensure you get the best performance out of your radiant heating system.
Insulation Recommendations for Structures With Radiant Floor Heating
If it isn’t already clear, a radiant heating system is a better option for heating your home. They provide effective heating, even at lower temperatures, creating significant energy savings.
To further ensure the energy efficiency of your heated loops, consider adding subfloor insulation. This insulation can lower heating costs more, ensure more consistent temperatures, prevent moisture build-up, and more.
One insulation option is the Ultralight 4-in-1, the first insulation board designed specifically for floor heating systems. Ultralight is always recommended for installation on concrete or above a crawl space.
Smart thermostats also help to optimize the performance of heated floors. With the thermostats, you can program schedules for heating to turn on and off at designated times, and the Warmup SmartGeo feature means you can control it via cell phone data.
How Much Does Radiant Floor Heating Cost?
The cost of heated floors varies greatly and depends on the size of the system and the type of system you choose. On average, expect to pay between $10-$15 per square foot. (Get an instant quote for an electric system here).
There are also installation costs and running costs to consider as well. For example, installation costs around $260-400 per day. The costs of running your radiant floor heating system will vary depending on its size and usage. However, the cost of running a radiant floor heating system is significantly less than most traditional alternatives.
To give you an idea, an average bathroom system utilizes about 300 watts, so for some people, that’s just about the same as the lights over the mirror. In dollars and cents, it costs about $5/mo to operate that system in a bathroom for a few hours in the morning and evening.
A whole-house system in a 3,000 sq ft space would run about $250/mo in the winter. The benefit of an electric system is that while electricity is viewed as expensive, the systems can be zoned and programmed actually making them very cost-effective.
Is Radiant Heating Practical for Commercial Buildings?
Radiant heating isn’t just an option for homeowners. In fact, radiant floor systems are an excellent option for commercial buildings. They result in lower operating costs, greater installation flexibility, and offer more efficient, cleaner, and quieter heat.
In addition, radiant heating systems don’t require ongoing maintenance, saving even more in costs down the road. All in all, radiant floors are an excellent option for commercial buildings. (You can read more about radiant heating for commercial buildings here).
5 Myths About Radiant Heating
1. Radiant Heating is New Technology: Believe it or not, the first radiant heating systems go as far back as the Roman Empire. Then, in 1904, Frank Loyd Wright invented a more modern system. Over the year, more advancements were made, which caused them to gain popularity in the 80s.
2. They Are Slow: As shown earlier in this article, radiant heating systems are actually faster than many alternatives, reaching optimal levels in as little as 20 minutes.
3. Radiant Heating Damages Floors: It is all about installation. When installed correctly, radiant systems are perfectly safe and won’t damage your floors.
4. They’re Expensive: Compared to other systems, electric-based radiant systems offer long-term savings—far outweighing installation costs.
5. It’s Only for Kitchens and Bathrooms: Radiant floors are the perfect heating solution for every room in your home!
Warmup Radiant Floor Heating in Action
Residential Use of Radiant Flooring
Warmup products have been used nationwide for residential and commercial projects. One residential project example was a cabin in Wisconsin. Homeowner Cynthia had a small, newly-built cabin that needed heating, though she had to consider not only her cathedral ceilings but also her allergies, which made forced air heating less appealing. The solution was Warmup, which she found to offer user-friendly installation and Smart thermostat capabilities that would allow her to monitor and adjust the temperature remotely as needed. Despite not being tech-savvy, she installed the insulation and heating system herself, ensuring she had a perfectly heated, energy-efficient home.
Commercial Use of Radiant Flooring
Another example comes from Amazon. They needed a solution to remove snow and ice from an Akron, OH truck washing area during winter quickly and efficiently. In the end, they opted for electric snow melting mats to cover their 1,000 sq ft truck washing area. Eight WSMM-480V/6000W units were installed, and a Commbox-600 controller was installed to increase the available features. After installation, Amazon noticed a significant improvement in safety and efficiency.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Radiant Floor Heating
Here are some commonly asked questions regarding heated flooring.
Is radiant floor heating safe?
Radiant heat flooring is a safe heating option. It is an “invisible” option, with no hot surfaces or exposed elements where you can get burned. You also won’t ever experience electrical shots from a radiant heating system. Since these systems don’t circulate air, there will be less dust floating around, which creates a fresher, more allergy-friendly space.
Warmup products have globally recognized safety accreditations, including UL.
If you’re still concerned about safety, find a qualified installer who has experience installing heated flooring.
Will in-floor radiant heating save me money?
One of the major benefits of radiant heating is that it is an energy-efficient heating solution that can significantly save on heating costs. These systems offer quicker heat-up times compared to other heating options while using lower temperatures to create warmth. You can further maximize the system’s efficiency and your savings by installing insulation boards underneath the radiant system.
Is radiant heating suitable for my project?
Radiant heating works for a wide range of projects. What you choose depends on where you are installing it, the size and height of the ceilings, and the type of flooring you use in the room.
At Warmup, we recommend installing electric systems during renovations or in smaller residential settings. For larger projects and new builds, we recommend water systems. Talk to a member of our team for help figuring out what system is best for you, or use our online selector.
How thick are underfloor heating systems?
Most of our floor heating systems have little to no obvious impact on flooring build-up heights. The StickyMat, for example, is the thinnest heating wire currently on the market, at a mere 1.8mm.
Do in-floor heating systems require special thermostats?
All floor systems are controlled by specific thermostats, depending on the scale of the project. We offer many thermostats at Warmup, from Smart ones to simple dial-based options. For more info on our thermostat options, check out our guide here.
How long does an in-floor radiant heat system take to warm up?
Electric floor heaters provide quick heat-up times, but how quick will depend on variables like:
- The size of the room
- The heat-loss and level of insulation of the space
- The type of flooring
- The system and heat source
For a tiled bathroom, you can expect heated floors to reach an optimal temperature in about 20 minutes.
Summary: Are Heated Floors Worth It?
Radiant floor heating is an easy and energy-efficient way to warm your home and keep your toes cozy. Although the cost of installing radiant heating is higher than the installation cost of traditional radiators, there are various options available to suit your budget and it’s worth keeping in mind that underfloor heating provides substantial cost savings on your energy bills in the longer term.
When remodeling your bathroom, radiant floor heating is especially worth thinking about. You will save a lot on the labor cost if the flooring is being lifted up and changed anyway. The comfort and the cost savings of running the system on your heating bills will work out to your advantage in the long run.
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