Radiant heating is one of the most popular project upgrades chosen by homeowners today, specifically for heated flooring. If you’re considering adding a “heated” element in your remodel, a radiant heating system may be the right fit for you. Keep reading to learn the basics of radiant heating and why so many homeowners utilize it to add an extra element of luxury to their homes.
WHAT IS RADIANT HEATING?
In the residential setting, radiant heating refers to a radiant heating system being installed in your home during a renovation. These radiant systems are typically installed underneath floors, behind walls, and even in ceilings. Radiant heating has been around since 1907, beginning with large panels that were installed in homes. Today, radiant heating technology has become an energy-efficient and cost-effective option for those looking for a solution other than traditional forced-air systems to heat their homes. There are two main types of radiant heating systems: electric and hydronic.
ELECTRIC RADIANT HEATING SYSTEMS
Electric radiant is currently the go-to method for floor heating. These systems generate heat through custom-designed plastic netting rolls woven with small electric coils. It is most commonly used for floor heating in kitchens and bathrooms, though it can be used in virtually any room. Incorporating electric floor heating doesn’t require the costly retrofitting of a home to fit the pumps and boilers that hydronic systems require. Electric systems are installed directly onto the subfloor and then troweled over with tile setting material. It conducts heat evenly under your chosen flooring material, usually tile, wood, concrete, or carpet. For smaller areas of your home like a bathroom or driveway, electric heating is likely your best option. These systems are the least invasive and are more user-friendly to install and operate than the other systems. We recommend WarmlyYours for electric radiant systems, as we’ve utilized their product within many of our projects.
HYDRONIC RADIANT HEATING SYSTEMS
Hydronic radiant systems use a boiler to pump heated water through a network of tubes/pipes installed throughout a home. They are often cheaper to operate than electric heating systems. When installing hydronic systems, installers lay flexible tubing (often made of PEX) within the floors, walls, or ceilings of a home. If you’re looking to heat your entire home with radiant heating, a hydronic radiant system is often the most energy-efficient and cost-effective to operate, as water is recirculated to heat the home. Having a network of tubes installed throughout your home is more invasive than an electric coil system, however, and requires a licensed professional to make sure installation is done right.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF RADIANT HEATING?
1. ENERGY EFFICIENT
Because radiant heating directly heats an object instead of relying on air movement like forced-air systems, rooms heat much more efficiently. Heat rises, so as the warmth escapes the warm floors, the air is heated throughout the room. You can set the ambient temperature slightly lower than a thermostat and experience no noticeable change to your energy bill with little wasted energy.
2. ALLERGY REDUCTION
Traditional HVAC systems spread dust from air ducts that can wreak havoc on those sensitive to allergens. If used throughout the home, radiant heating can eliminate the need for a furnace and return vents. This can vastly lessen the dust circulating in your home. But remember, just because radiant systems lessen the allergens in your home doesn’t mean they purify your home’s air, so you may need to have an air purifier too if you have allergies.
Radiant heating ensures that the area you are heating is evenly-warm throughout, meaning no cold spots. Forced-air heating often leaves parts of a room much colder than others based on how far away they are from the vents. In contrast, radiant heating systems warm the whole area evenly, so the ambient temperature is the same, creating fewer cold spots, which is important if you’re heating floors.
Radiant heating floor systems are incredibly durable and require almost no maintenance when installed correctly. Once installed, hydronic systems require some routine maintenance to ensure the pumps and boilers are functioning properly over time. The maintenance required depends on your boiler system. Fortunately, most radiant heating systems come with guarantees that span decades.
Radiant heating systems can cost between $6-$24 per square foot depending on which system you choose and what materials you are heating. Installing electric floor heating is cheaper than hydronic, and there’s effectively no maintenance required. In general, expect to pay 50 percent more for a hydronic radiant flooring system than for conventional forced-air heat, but the operating costs are cheaper than electric. Electricity is the more costly radiant heat option to operate between the two types on a per sq. ft. basis, but this difference can be somewhat nullified by using a programmable thermostat.
WHERE CAN RADIANT HEATING GO IN MY HOME?
Radiant heating systems work well in virtually every room in your house, as it can be installed under tile, wood, carpet, or concrete. It can also be installed behind walls or in ceilings when appropriate. Take time to go throughout your home and establish the coldest rooms, floors, or areas where you think radiant heating would be most beneficial. The most popular spaces homeowners utilize radiant heating are bathrooms, basements, and exterior walkways/driveways.
We’ve touched on it already, but you can turn your master bath into an oasis by adding a radiant heated flooring system. The electric system works well beneath both tile and stone. To add another element of luxury, consider a heated shower bench, towel warmer, or mirror-defogging system for your bathroom.
Many people describe their basements as cold or dark, picture a classic unfinished basement with basic storage space and a washer/dryer. Basements can be so much more: home theaters, bars, home gyms, or an office. There is no limit to what your basement can become! Whatever you decide, including radiant flooring will ensure you never think of your basement as “cold” again.
Driveway heating solutions are available as either snow-melting mats or cables embedded directly in concrete, asphalt, or in mortar under pavers. They work for any size or shape of driveway. If you live anywhere where snow falls or ice accumulates, this is a game changer!
As you continue planning your remodel, radiant heating is definitely worth considering. If you’re thinking of adding radiant heating in a specific area of your home, we recommend speaking with a professional who knows the product and to help you through the process. Explore our Remodeling Resource Center to learn more about what goes into a remodel and find answers to your renovation-related questions.