Floor heating, also called radiant floor heating, is a trend in modern green building practices as well as in renovations. Underfloor radiant heating involves under-laying the floor with tubing that transfers heat into the room via infrared radiation and convection, replacing forced or blowing air.
Modern heat distribution systems, such as radiators and forced-air ducts, are convective – by circulating heated air through a finite space, they warm the entire volume to the desired temperature. Traditional radiators need to be heated to a high temperature (between 149-167 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to heat up a room effectively. Radiators heat the air nearest first, which is why rooms heated by radiators are prone to “cold spots.” Radiators and forced air heating systems circulate heat inefficiently and need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels. They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down.
By contrast, radiant heat uniformly distributes heat over the entire surface of a floor, warming from the floor upward throughout the room without any cold spots or stuffiness in the area being heated. Inhabitants are enveloped in warmth as radiant flooring heats the lower half of the room. Radiant heating only needs to run at a temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit or less, depending on the floor finish, in order to warm the room.
Hydronic Radiant Heating
There are two main types of radiant heating, electric and hydronic. In the former, heated wires installed in the floor radiate heat upward. Hydronic radiant heating works by heating water that is forced through corrosion-resistant polyethylene tubes under the floor. Hydronic radiant floor systems pump heated water from a boiler through tubing laid in a pattern under the floor. In some systems, thermostats regulate room temperatures control through each tubing loop by using zoning valves or pumps. Hydronic radiant heating is more energy efficient overall, often operating at a lower overall temperature—in some cases up to five degrees Fahrenheit cooler—than a conventional heating system.
Advantages of Hydronic Radiant Heating
Energy Efficient Heating
- Hydronic radiant heating is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because it eliminates duct losses.
- People with allergies often prefer radiant heat because it doesn’t distribute allergens like forced air systems can.
- Hydronic systems use little electricity. Hydronic systems can use a wide variety of energy sources to heat the liquid, including standard gas- or oil-fired boilers, wood-fired boilers, solar water heaters, or a combination of these sources.
Effortless to Run
- Once installed, underfloor heating needs virtually no maintenance and comes with a 30 Year Guarantee.
- The Warmup heating controllers will ensure that heating runs in the most efficient manner either automatically or a programmable thermostat for zone control.
- Radiant heating systems don’t require ductwork to function properly.
- If a building has a central air conditioning system, there may not be a need to use it all year long. Ducts that aren’t used for much of the year wear more slowly and don’t require heavy maintenance.
- Radiant heat systems are completely concealed in the concrete with no air vents, baseboards or wall radiators.
Concrete + Hydronic Radiant Heating
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends the use of concrete sub-floors for radiant heat. Solar Energy is the ideal source of radiant heating systems. Thick concrete slabs are ideal for storing heat from solar energy systems, which have a fluctuating heat output. Concrete slabs have plenty of thermal mass; they can retain heat over time, which is ideal for radiant under-floor heating. For hydronic heating, water pipes run through the top layer of concrete, so heat is not wasted below the surface. Water tubes or electric cables are easily embedded in concrete slabs.