Radiant Floor Heating: Pros and Cons

Radiant floor heating is NOT a fancy new trend. This method of climate control has been used for centuries, dating back as early as Early Roman times. As with any construction method, there are pros and cons. In many applications, the pros will outweigh the cons. If a homeowner is considering radiant floor heating, they should research their options and obtain the professional opinion of a designer, project manager and installer.

What is radiant floor heating? According to Scientific American, “Underfloor radiant heating involves under laying the floor with a hot element or tubing that transfers heat into the room via infrared radiation and convection, obviating the need for forced or blowing air”. This method has been used for centuries! Ancient Romans heated their spaces with a similar in-floor method. Radiant floor heating can be retro-fitted to a space or can be applied to new construction.

Why is radiant floor heating a good method of climate control? Efficiency is an important consideration in any design. Most applications allow for radiant floor heating to be far more efficient than forced air heating because energy is not being lost in the duct. When forced air is not used, ducts will no longer be required. Eliminating ducts and forced air will greatly reduce heat lost, cold and hot spots, and airborne dust and allergens. See the diagram below to get a visual of how the heat is dispersed through a space using forced air versus radiant floor heat. The diagram clearly shows that temperature is more consistent using radiant floor heat. When the heating is consistent in a space, less energy will be used to keep the space at a certain temperature, ultimately lowering energy costs.

Are there any reasons not to consider radiant floor heat? Everything about radiant floor heat sounds positive, but there are always cons to consider in any construction application. Radiant floor heating has a higher upfront cost due to the increased amount of labor with the install. If a hard surface is being used, radiant floor heating can be installed with in-floor tubing such as what is pictured below. If a wood floor or carpet is used, warm board will be applied under the finished floor. Warm board can be more costly but allows for all types of flooring to be applied and have radiant floor heat.

In many retrofit applications, radiant floor heat can be an incredible cost saving alternative to forced air. This type of flooring is ideal for any homeowner concerned with dust, allergens, and energy efficiency.

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