The Ins and Outs of Electric Radiant Floor Heating
The installation of electric radiant floor heating systems is growing in popularity in both new homes and renovations that focus on clean, comfortable living, and comes with many benefits such as consistent, energy-efficient warmth. Why? The answer to this is simple. Electric radiant floor heating systems are easy to install, produce no noise, require no maintenance, are non-allergenic and heat up quickly to provide uniform floor heating.
Radiant Heating Systems
Through a series of wires, typically customizable for design flexibility, electric radiant floor heating systems produce heat through thermal radiation. By heating the floor rather than the surrounding air that can be less energy efficient due to duct losses, diffused heat radiates from the floor up and is absorbed by surrounding objects that in turn help warm the entire room.
A lesser effective radiant heating system on the market is air-heated radiant floors, which are seldom installed because air cannot hold large amounts of heat, so radiant air floors are not cost-effective in residential applications. Hydronic (liquid) systems are a popular alternative that rivals electric radiant floor heating systems by pumping heated water from a boiler through tubing laid in a pattern under the floor. These systems are also often more expensive and are recommended to be installed at the time of construction, whereas electric radiant floor heating systems are a great retrofitting project that can be done at any time.
Installation Methods Based on the Flooring Type
When installing electric radiant floor heating systems, methods can vary greatly based on the suitability of the desired floor finishing. For example, ceramic, porcelain and stone tile floors are often considered the best materials to use with underfloor heating thanks to excellent heat transfer properties. Meanwhile, thicker stone and marble floors have good thermal conductivity but may require more time to heat up, and hardwood, laminate or resilient finishes may have other inherent properties that could require a slightly different system.
The desired finish must be compatible and tolerant of the thermal fluctuations these systems can exert on finishes to ensure there is no damage to the flooring.
Most radiant heating systems are versatile enough to be installed over both plywood and concrete substrates. However, when installing over on-grade or below-grade concrete surfaces, additional precautions should be taken to help prevent heat-sink or heat-loss through the concrete slab. If heat-sink or heat-loss occurs, heat may not transfer properly or efficiently.
Generally, a backer board with insulation properties can be placed over the concrete slab in order to assist and prevent heat-sink or heat-loss from happening. For plywood substrates, installers should conform to Tile Council of North America Handbook For Tile and Stone Installation requirements when installing ceramic, porcelain or dimension stone tile finishes over heated flooring systems.
Benefits and Final Considerations
If you’re a specifier that read through the entire article and still have some doubts about including electric radiant floor heating systems in your projects, aside from anything else the main benefit of this system, energy efficiency, speaks for itself.
As we move into the winter months and temperatures begin to decrease, electric radiant floor heating systems seem less like a luxury item and more like a necessity. With space heaters as the easiest go-to option, it’s hard to beat an installation that can reduce energy costs by 15 percent. With the addition of Wi-Fi-controlled thermostats that can learn homeowner routines and apply the most efficient settings, heating usage can be reduced by 25 percent. In the long run, the entire system will pay for itself.