Is Radiant Floor Heating a new invention?
No, it has been in use for 2 thousand years. The Romans first used radiant floor heating (hot water & steam) in their Hypocausts over 2,000 years ago, and the Koreans soon followed with their Ondol method (hot air) of flue ducts and chimneys.
What about Electric Radiant Floor Heating?
Americans have been using floor warming since the late 1980s when the first floor warming mats were introduced. In Europe, electric cables were first used for floor warming in the 1930s and there are several buildings in Norway with electric systems installed in the 1950s still in use today – over 50 years!
What are the popular types of Radiant Heating?
1. Hydronic (using water heated by a boiler pumped throughout the floor)
2. Electric (direct conversion of electricity into heat energy using resistance wires)
Hydronic systems use a boiler to heat the water and transport it through a complex series of piping, pumps, valves, expansion tanks, controls, etc. to your floor. This is an elaborate plumbing system with water pipes throughout your floor. Hydronic systems are typically serviced annually by a professional. See a photo of a typical Hydronic panel.
Electric floor heating quickly and easily installs beneath your floor covering and is switched on and off by a Thermostat which senses the floor and/or air temperature and reacts accordingly. The thermostats are most often fully programmable with built in programs and a timer. No moving parts, no maintenance and no plumbing leaks.
What is “Radiant Heat”
Hold your hand over a cup of hot coffee and feel the warmth. A common conclusion is that heat rises. Logical maybe, but incorrect! “Hot air” rises but heat travels in any direction. That is why you can feel the heat of the cup when you place your hand to the side too. Radiant energy transfer is caused by a warm surface giving up its heat to a cooler surface. When there is a temperature difference between two surfaces, both surfaces will attempt to equalize.
Radiant energy from the sun travels through space without heating the vacuum of space itself. It only turns into heat when it contacts a cooler surface or object. Our comfort relies on radiant heat transfer just as it does on air temperature, yet the majority of heating and air-conditioning professionals think only in terms of air temperature.
How is heat transferred?
Heat is transferred from one location or object, to another by 3 basic methods; Convection, Conduction and Radiant Heat.
One basic rule to all three modes is this: heat does not rise, hot air rises. Heat moves from a hot source to a cold source. Think of a hot air balloon. It floats because the hot air inside is less dense than the cool air outside. This literally causes the balloon to float in much the same way a boat floats on water.
Another way to think of this is to imagine a cast iron skillet placed on a stove burner. When the burner is turned on the handle is still cool to the touch, but as the bottom of the pan warms, the heat moves from this now warm source, to the cooler outer edges. Eventually the handle will become too hot to handle and a pot holder will be required to handle the skillet.
The 3 modes of Heat Transfer explained
Convection is what most of us know the best. This is how forced air heating systems or baseboard systems transfers heat into a space. Air moves over a heating element, becomes warmer and expands into the space. In a forced air environment, most of the hot air is at the ceiling (the same reason the hot air balloon rises). So, warm air in a room heated with forced airends up at the ceiling. Convective heat transfer is the least efficient means to transfer energy.
Conductive heat transfer relies on two surfaces touching each other. Imagine that cast iron pan on the stove. If your hand is positioned an inch above the hot handle, you really won't feel much heat from the handle, and you can keep your hand there as long as you wish. But, when you touch the handle, your hand instantly begins to feel hot (let go!). This is conductive heat transfer. The pan is giving off the energy (heat) in the handle to your hand in a very fast, efficient manner. Conduction is a very efficient mode of heat transfer.
Radiant heat transfer is the best because it isn't slowed down by air. Radiant energy is only felt when the energy wave strikes another surface. This means the surrounding surfaces all reach set temperature. By surrounding your body with warm surfaces, we can better control how our bodies lose heat. Radiant floor heat means more comfort and higher efficiency. And the heat is where you need it. High ceilings and many windows are a primary reason Radiant heat is chosen as a building heating system. Radiant heats you, your family and the objects and surfaces around you. In contrast to the efficiency of Radiant, forced air heating systems allow all of the nice, usable heat to accumulate at the ceiling since hot air rises.
Why do some contractors discourage radiant floor heating?
There are a few contractors who object to Radiant Floor Heat. Anyone involved in the building or remodeling process who is not experienced with radiant floors may be hesitant. This is a normal, protective reaction encountered in architects, engineers, builders, plumbers, electricians, mechanical contractors and anyone else who has input into your project that might be affected. By voicing an objection they are really saying, “I don't know enough about radiant floors, so I do not feel comfortable working with them Fortunately, we will always take the opportunity to educate you, your contractor, or anyone involved who has questions.”
So, call on us to educate them or choose a contractor who is familiar or willing to learn. Working with professionals and contractors who are NOT familiar with the systems will result in inflated costs and a potentially poor installation. Get help! We have videos, DVDs, excellent installation manuals and trade associations that can help.
Remember, you are the one that will live in your home, not the contractor. It all comes back to your desire for comfort and energy savings. Use a reputable supplier and installer and your result will be a level of comfort you may not have thought possible. Our experience shows homeowners who choose radiant floor heating rarely go back to forced air systems in the future. The comfort and convenience is that superior!
What are some of the benefits of Radiant Floor Heating?
- Efficiency and heat where you need it; not wasted at the ceiling
- Silence. The systems are virtually silent — no furnace, blowers or motors. Just warmth felt but not heard.
- Invisible. Hidden beneath the floor there are no design concerns and not hot or cold spots in a room
- Superior zoning. Heat where and when you need it
- Clean & Healthy. No airborne contaminants are circulated throughout your home, like with forced air.
Why choose Hydronic?
Hydronic heating makes the most sense in new construction where you will heat the entire house with the radiant floor heating system and have room for all the mechanical equipment and a source of fuel other than electricity.
Electric Radiant Floor Heating and Building inspectors, Energy rules and Title 24
Occassionaly a local building inspector has a question about floor heating installation, although this is becoming less frequent as our systems become more popular. Any questions can usually be cleared up by bringing a few key facts to their attention. Show them the product and the attached safety labels and details.
1. ALL of our Floor Warming Systems are UL and/or CSA listed. These approvals are accepted throughout N. America. This is NOT TRUE with all products sold elsewhere; choosing Warm Your Floor means safe products.
2. ALL of the Thermostats & Controls we offer have GFCI protection Built-In and are also tested by at least 1 of the independent testing laboratories (UL, CSA, or ETL) and listed for safety
3. Millions of Electric Floor Warming products have been safely installed in the USA & Canada for decades.
California Title 24 and Electric Radiant Read More Here
What Floor covings can be used with Radiant Heat?
Virtually all of them! Tile (ceramic, porcelain,Glass,etc) and Natural Stone(Marble,Slate,Granite,Travertine,etc) are the most common. But Wood Floors, Laminate, Carpet, Vinyl and Linoleum can all be used but small adjustments in installation methods may be necessary.
My Contractor says using radiant with Wood Floors will cause problems. Your thoughts?
This is a common misconception. But 2 major Wood Flooring associations, NOFMA and NWFA say differently.
- NOFMA (National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association) deals primarily with SOLID floor products, which are typically installed over Hydronic systems. See an article discussing installation – Read More
- NWFA (National Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association)
- Carlisle Wood Flooring is a major manufacturer of Wide Plank Flooring
- Radiant Panel Association Has also done research Read More