Everything You Need to Know About In-floor Heating Systems
Last modified: 2019/01/10 | Approximate reading time 6 mins
Few things are as surprising as stepping barefoot on a frozen tile floor during the winter. While it’s not the end of the world, most don’t wish to wear two pairs of socks throughout the long Canadian winter season, especially at home.
This is why heated floors (also known as radiant floors) attract more and more homeowners seeking to enhance thermal comfort. Unlike other heaters, this heating system works by radiation, rather than by convection. A heated floor can be installed in any room of the house, from bathroom to living room, right down to the basement.
Heated floor works at low temperatures, expanding to radiate a large area. There are two main types of radiant heaters: electric (with resistance) and hydronic (with hot water or glycol). The one you choose for your home will be based on the type of project, the size of the house and your budget. Here’s everything you need to know on the subject of radiant floors:
In-floor heating systems: what you need to know
source: Wikimedia Commons
Electric radiant floors
Essentially, radiant floor heating systems work with two main types of technology. The first is electric, also known as a dry system, and uses coils placed beneath the floor. Whether for a renovation or a new construction, it’s possible to install heated flooring 100% electric (with cables or with a mattress wire).
Thus, an electric floor can be an interesting alternative if a concrete slab is already poured but you’re still interested in installing a radiant floor. Unlike a hydronic heating system, the electric floor is better for small areas. For example, if your goal is to heat a single room in the house, it will be cheaper.
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An electric radiant floor is compatible with the majority of flooring (engineered wood, natural stone, linoleum, ceramic, etc.). It doesn’t dry the air and further, does not carry dust or germs. Another interesting advantage is that the electrical system doesn’t require maintenance. The installation of an electric floor heating is fairly straightforward.
First, you’ll need to begin by laying insulation on the floor. This is because all the heat produced must go to the ground while also avoiding being lost in the ground. Then the resistors are laid on a frame before pouring a screed or installing the floor. Resistors must be completely covered to maximize the area of radiation
How much does it cost to install an electric floor heater?
It’s certain that the cost of installing an electric floor heating system is higher than the installation of electric baseboards. However, this type of heating allows you to save in the long run, as it consumes less energy and the heat is distributed more evenly.
You’ll need $8,000 to $11,000 to install a floor heating system for a 2,400 square foot home. Added to this is the labour cost of between $1,000 and $2,000. In the case of a renovation (especially if the house is old), a surplus could be applied for the change of electrical installation, which can range from an addition of $1,000 to $2,000.
Will you save on electricity bills?
Even though most manufacturers report attractive savings, ranging from 15% to 30% less consumption compared to other heating systems, actual savings are around 2% to 3% less than a conventional heating system. These savings are the same for the hydronic system. However, it’s important to remember that for most people who opt for this kind of system, it’s an investment to optimize comfort.
What to do in case of breakage?
If your heating floor has been properly installed by a professional, there will be no risk of breakage. However, this system is relatively simple to install, especially for a seasoned handyman, so it’s common for homeowners to install it themselves. In the event that breakage occurs, it’s necessary to call on a specialized technician who will be able to locate the breakdown by way of a thermal camera. Once the breakage is detected, it will only be left to cut the coating at the desired location before proceeding to repair.
Hydronic radiant floors
The other type of system is hydronic.For most homes, this system is advisable.. Although it’s more expensive to buy, it saves a considerable amount of energy in the long run. An expert is essential to install a hydronic heating floor. In addition, you will certainly need to hire a contractor to pour concrete on the soil surface.
The hydronic system operates through a series of pumps and pipes placed under the floor in order to heat the fluid which consists of hot water or a water-antifreeze mixture that circulates through these pipes. This technology requires the installation of a boiler (gas or electric). Moreover, this system can be combined with other sources of energy (solar installation, geothermal, air-water heat pump).
There are several types of hydronic systems: the first is the traditional integrated system in which the pipes are embedded in a concrete floor during the construction phase of the house. This is ideal for a basement, but can be used in any room with a concrete base. The second system is related to the installation of the system on the main floor.
The pipes are then installed above the subfloor and are covered. Finally, the last type is used for the upper floors. Here, the pipes pass between the joists in contact with the metal plates in order to transfer the heat to the ground level.
.When opting for a hydronic radiant floor heating system, the pipes you use matter significantly. Experts recommend using cross-linked polyethylene or PEX, a strong plastic with many benefits including flexibility and longevity.
Radiant heated floors are also a great choice to make any bathroom feel cozier. Thanks to the nature of linoleum and tile (typical bathroom floor materials), radiant heated floors are a perfect solution to freezing tiles underfoot. Heated floors can also free up space and help declutter your bathroom while making it quieter without any rattling ducts or loose vents.
The advantages of radiant flooring
The advantages of the radiant floor are numerous, Radiant floor heating is a very effective manner of heating a space without losing too much energy in the process. In sections of Europe, these systems can be used to heat whole rooms due to their effectiveness.. As the heat rises through the floor, it efficiently heats up most of a room.
Therefore, the main advantage is a better distribution of heat throughout the house, unlike conventional radiators that emit heat in a localized way. All rooms are homogeneously heated, ensuring total comfort. There are some other serious advantages, and these include the following:
- As you may have guessed, the entire heating system is concealed under the floor. You will be able to arrange your furniture at leisure and without constraint;
- A heated floor produces no air movement, which reduces the flow of dust particles and other allergens;
- This is a cost-effective, long-term solution, which is recommended for new construction as well as for major renovations;
- Unlike other heating systems, a heated floor produces no noise and no smell;
- Upward heat diffusion is reduced, minimizing heat loss through the walls and roof;
- Lastly, the heat is concentrated at ground level and comes into direct contact with your feet. This makes the heat produced more enjoyable while maximizing energy efficiency.
Drawbacks of radiant heated floors
For any interested homeowner, there are some downsides to radiant floor heating systems. While they are not necessarily deterrents to installing heated floors, they should still be taken into consideration. The most evident drawback to radiant heated floors is related to cost. This signals both the initial cost of installation, which may require your existing floors to be pulled up and the cost of running the system over the course of its use.
Radiant heated floors also require considerable assembly, which to some can be a downside. While experienced do-it-yourself handymen can lay down an electric heated floor more easily by themselves, it’s a more painstaking and time-consuming job to do alone so an experienced contractor is advised. In the case of hydronic systems, an expert is necessary considering how intricate these systems are. To properly pour the concrete, especially on the upper floors of the house, using a licensed professional is highly recommended as it’s a difficult undertaking for even the most seasoned home improvement enthusiast.
Despite the upfront cost to install a radiant heating system under your floors, n the long run savings make it a good investment. Given the fact that they allow for great climate control while also being considered a premium feature by buyers, radiant heated floors offer great benefits to your home overall.
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