Detailed Guide to Radiant Heating & Underfloor Heating Systems

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underfloor heating, radiant heating system

In luxury homes today it’s common for people building or remodeling their home to use natural stone flooring or tile. It’s beautiful, unique and easy to clean and maintain. However, in a cold winter market like where we’re located in the Washington DC region, using hard flooring surfaces can leave your home feeling cold to the touch. That’s why we urge our customers to consider underfloor or radiant heating. They find the small additional cost is well worth the price in comfort alone and it is also more energy efficient. Here’s our detailed guide to radiant heating and underfloor heating systems to help you decide for yourself.

Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating is heat supplied through tubes running underneath the surface of the floor. The tubes are heated either by electricity or water (hydronic), and it distributes heat evenly across the floor. It provides even, comfortable heat throughout a room from the floor up.

Radiant heat is up to 30% more energy efficient than standard HVAC systems. Click To Tweet

According to The Department of Energy, radiant heat is more efficient than baseboard and forced-air and it is more healthy because it doesn’t distribute allergens. Hydronic systems are generally more cost efficient than using oil-, gas-, or wood-fired boilers or even solar water heaters.

Radiant heat tubes can be installed by either embedding the tubes in the concrete slab or between a lightweight concrete slab and a wooden sub-floor (wet installation), or by sandwiching the tubing between layers of plywood or under the finished floor (dry installation).

Electric radiant heat is not as cost efficient simply due to the cost of electricity. However, if a thick concrete slab is used, it can effectively ‘store’ enough heat to keep the area comfortable for 8-10 hours. This can be beneficial if you live in an area where the electric company charges time-of-use-rates. It can also be practical in new additions where running a heat supply isn’t feasible.

Hydronic systems are the most cost-efficient and popular in residential applications. The tubing is laid under the finish floor and heated water is pumped from a boiler through the tubes.

Ceramic tile is the most effective covering for radiant floor heat. It will conduct and store the heat best. Other flooring choices such as natural stone, carpet, wood, or vinyl can be used with somewhat less efficiency.

Costs for installing radiant heat vary greatly depending on the type of installation, the square footage, and the amount of labor involved. Installing during construction or renovation will be less expensive than having to tear up or drill holes in an existing floor. You should expect to pay at approximately $8/sq.ft. for electric and $6/sq.ft. for hydronic installation. Contact our team to get a quote if you live in the greater Washington DC area!

Radiant heat requires an involved and somewhat messy installation process if floors are existing. It may take some time to bring a room to the desired temperature. And, if repairs are needed, it may be costly.

Radiant heat requires no venting, it makes no noise, and because there is no forced air, allergens are not blown around. In addition to having constant and evenly distributed heat, radiant heat is 10-30% more energy-efficient than standard HVAC systems, paying for itself in no time.

If have questions, or are considering installing radiant floor heating in your new build, renovation project, or existing home in the Washington DC area, please contact us.

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Photo Credit: Photo labeled available for reuse at Wikipedia.