Weighing the Pros, Cons of Radiant Heated Floors
By Julia Billen
The epitome of luxury and comfort has to be radiant heated floors. Whether heated by electric wires or hot water pipes, there’s nothing quite like stepping onto a warmed floor after a shower or on a cold winter day. But despite all the perks — and there are many — radiant floor heating has its drawbacks. It’s important that consumers consider both the pros and cons before making the investment.
Benefits of Radiant Heat
1. The biggest benefit of floor heating systems is their ability to uniformly heat a floor and room. Forced air heating systems use vents to distribute warm air. The location of the vents determines which parts of a room will be warmest. In contrast, underfloor radiant heating warms the entire floor, leading to an evenly heated room and an even ambient temperature around a person’s body. This means occupants will feel more comfortable at a lower ambient temperature level because they won’t experience cold drafts.
2. Radiant floor heating systems do not require any maintenance. Once they are installed, they will last 20 years or more without any issues.
3. Radiant floor heating is very quiet. Unlike forced air systems, there isn’t a loud furnace that kicks on.
4. Radiant floor heating does not move air around, so there is no circulation of dust or other allergens in a room. This is a major benefit for people who suffer from allergies or asthma.
5. Radiant floor heating is one of the most energy-efficient ways to heat a home. In fact, it is considered at least 20 to 25 per cent more energy-efficient than a forced air heating system. This is because the heat is evenly distributed throughout a room, so there is no need to overheat it to compensate for cold spots. Additionally, radiant floor heating is very efficient because it doesn’t rely on ductwork that can leak heat. Further, thanks to advanced technology, occupants can easily regulate the temperature of a room using WiFi or a programmable thermostat. This allows them to only heat the room when occupied; they can lower the temperature when a room is not in use, resulting in both energy and cost savings.
6. Radiant floor heating systems are easy to install and can be used under almost any flooring type. They’re available in rolls that already have the heating cable attached to mesh in a serpentine pattern. Because of this, the installer simply rolls them out and cuts and turns them where necessary to fill up the room. They’re also available in loose cable with an installation membrane that features square-shaped ‘studs’ to hold the cable in place. This option offers crack prevention benefits for a heated tile floor.
Disadvantages of In-floor Heating
1. If a consumer wants to install radiant heated floors in their home, they’ll need to replace their existing flooring. This is because radiant heated floors need to be installed under new flooring. The most popular choice for radiant heated floors is tile because it conducts heat very well. However, radiant heated systems can be installed under laminate, floating hardwood, nailed hardwood, vinyl, including luxury vinyl tile, too, among other flooring types.
2. Radiant heated floors need to be installed on top of a subfloor, so existing flooring will be raised by about an inch. This can be an issue if doors swing into the room, as they may not clear the new flooring.
3. The initial cost can be higher than other types of heating systems. Depending on the system purchased, electric floor heating ranges from $10 to $20 per square foot. Hydronic floor heating systems are typically more expensive upfront because they require a boiler, pump and gas lines to operate. However, if they are being used throughout a house, the cost per square foot goes down because multiple rooms share the cost. Keep in mind, radiant heated floors last much longer than other heating systems and are very energy-efficient. In the long run, money will be saved by installing radiant heated floors.
Julia Billen is president, owner and co-founder of WarmlyYours Radiant Heating. During her tenure, Julia has helped WarmlyYours grow into one of the foremost electric floor heating companies in North America. She is an active member of several governing committees and panels for the industry, including the UL standards committee, US technical advisory group, Flooring Technical Standards and Issues panel, among many others. Julia can be reached at [email protected].