Though technological advances have brought radiant floor heating into the public eye over the past decade or two, the concept of distributing heat from underneath the floor has been around for centuries. Today, radiant flooring is an efficient and effective means to heat your home, but it is not without a few drawbacks.
The Radiant Professionals Alliance, an organization dedicated to educating both consumers and contractors on the benefits of radiant heating, identifies three basic ways that radiant heat can be distributed through panels: Air channels, water channels, and electric elements. Of the three only water and electricity are employed with any regularity. In a nutshell, the floor either contains channels or is built just above channels that carry warmth (hot water, hot air, or heated electric elements). The RPA points out that this flooring typically feels "neutral"; only when the system is operating at high output will the floor be noticeably warm.
1.Benefits of Radiant Floor Heating
The choice to install radiant flooring is dependent on many factors, not the least of which is the condition of your current HVAC system.
There are many benefits of using this type of system. Radiant flooring doesn't come out of a vent or baseboard, so it allows for more flexibility in placing furniture around the room. The heat produced is also more evenly distributed throughout the room, creating an overall warmth that many find very comfortable.
The most compelling benefit of these systems, however, is their efficiency. Radiant floor heating systems that channel hot water use very little electricity in their operation, making them a perfect choice for those looking to beat high energy costs. Additionally, because there is no ductwork for traveling heat to get lost in, more of the heat that is produced makes it to the area it is intended to go.
2.Drawbacks of Radiant Floor Systems
The lack of ductwork is great for efficient heating but leaves much to be desired for cooling. In most cases, air conditioning is performed by a heat pump or condenser that is completely separate from the radiant system. Though some water channel flooring can be used to cool as well as heat, some sort of dehumidifier is often necessary to prevent condensation on the floor.
One of the biggest drawbacks to radiant floor heating systems is that many contractors are not familiar with their installation. This means that homeowners looking to have one of these systems put in may have difficulty in finding a company that's well-versed in the process.
3.Is Radiant Flooring for You?
The choice to install radiant flooring is dependent on many factors, not the least of which is the condition of your current HVAC system. If you're happy with the way your home is currently being heated and cooled, the cost of installing radiant flooring is likely something you can do without. However, if you were planning on upgrading your heating system anyway (or, for that matter, already planning on installing new flooring), looking a little further into radiant flooring is probably a good idea.
Retrofitting has its drawbacks in general, but if you are planning on building a new home, completely remodeling an existing property, or you're thinking of building an addition, radiant flooring is definitely worth considering. Because these systems are extremely efficient, they will be relatively inexpensive to operate in the future. Plus, radiant flooring can be an important selling point when and if you're trying to sell.
No matter what your situation, though, installing radiant floor heating is not the easiest project on the planet. Make sure you find a contractor who is not only familiar with these systems, but one who has plenty of references who will attest to how well their systems have performed.