As I sit at my chair, typing this article, my feet are bottled up in some black slippers. I would much rather be barefoot in my home on this cold November evening. Sounds crazy doesn’t it, but walking around barefoot on warm floors is a reality for people who use radiant floor heat.
How do you create these warm floors? You have to install an electric or hydronic system into the subfloor, or into the concrete of your home. It isn’t something that you can do to a pre-existing floor without a major renovation. The best thing to do is be aware of this awesome heating option, so when you are able to do a renovation to the flooring, you include radiant heat.
In an electric radiant floor, a radiant mat is placed on the subfloor. It is then covered up with tile or laminate flooring. When the radiant floor is activated, the mat heats up like an electric blanket. The heat transfers to the finished flooring and then becomes warm to the touch. This heat energy then radiates through the room. It’s like turning your entire floor into a large radiator. A lot of bathroom remodeling jobs now include radiant heat. Just imagine getting up for work in the morning, and as you step on the tile floor, it’s nice and toasty warm instead of cold and clammy.
You don’t need to add anything new to your home for an electric system besides a thermostat for the rooms with the electric heat. The floor takes time to heat up, but the thermostats are programmed to understand this. For instance, if program the thermostat for floors to be warm at 6:00 pm, the system will actually turn on in advance so the floor is heated up by the time you want it to be nice and toasty.
The other system for heating flooring is called hydronic radiant heat. Water tubes are placed into the floor. For a concrete radiant heat system, the tubing circuit is placed first. Then the concrete is poured over the hydronic tubing circuit. The concrete then becomes a large warm thermal mass that keeps your entire home warm. For a subfloor, you can attach the water tubes with aluminum flashing. The warm water that circulates through the tubes heats up the aluminum and the rest of the floor.
For a hydronic system, you will need a boiler, or a water heater to link up to all the hydronic tubing. You can set up different zones for your system though. You could have a zone for the bedrooms, so it only is heating them at night, and then create a zone for the living room and kitchen, so you don’t waste heat on the bedrooms when no one is in there.
No matter what system you use radiant floor heat is based on creating comfort. I have experienced radiant floors and will definitely include them in any remodeling projects that I have in the future. If I am lucky enough to build a new home, I won’t have a traditional forced air heating system. I am going for the warmth and efficiency of radiant heat.