How Does In-Floor Heating Work?

radiant in floor heating

How to Get the Most from In Floor Radiant Heat Systems

This winter gave us record-breaking low temperatures on Vancouver Island. Maybe you even had to set your HVAC system to run at peak efficiency and a few of your rooms still felt too cold. 

Energy costs aren’t getting any lower and half your home’s energy bills go towards heating and cooling. It’s important to have a heating system that works for you and your family and offers a cost-effective solution. You could invest in an all-new HVAC system, but you can still experience heat loss in certain spaces.

Underfloor heating (also called in floor heating and radiant heating systems) can help ease this problem.

How Does Underfloor Heating Work?

Radiant floor heating systems use thermal and electromagnetic waves.

This warms up space by heating the floor directly, rather than warming the air in the space. 

In floor heating systems radiate heat up towards other objects in your space. In turn, these objects will absorb the heat, which helps warm the entire home. In other words, with a heated floor you’ll feel warmer even if the air temperature is cooler. 

With a forced-air system, the air rises, then cools and falls to the floor. Radiant floor heating keeps the temperature much more consistent. 

When considering an in floor heating system, there are 2 types of systems to choose from. 

Hydronic or Electric Floor Heating?

Whether you want hydronic or electric floor heating depends on which system is more suitable for the space you have in mind. 

Electric floor heating uses electricity to heat a very thin wire.

The electric system works better for smaller areas or during the renovation of an older home. Electric floor heating typically doesn’t raise floor levels.

Hydronic floor heating uses hot water to circulate heat through a series of pipes. Hydronic heating is the ideal choice for larger areas or new home builds. These require more installation as they are fitted into the structural subfloor. 

The cost of installation and running costs can depend on:

  • Running time
  • Heat output
  • Room size 
  • Energy prices
  • Type of system

Benefits of Radiant Floor Heating

  • Energy-efficient and cost-effective

Compared to gas or boiler-based systems, radiant floor heat performs consistently better. Furnaces need to operate longer and at a much higher temperature to heat a space as effectively as radiant floor heating systems.

With duct-based heating, there will always be a significant amount of energy loss, whereas with underfloor heating, the floors are heated directly so there’s more energy efficiency.

  • Compatible with most types of flooring

Underfloor heating can be installed under laminate, stone, concrete, tile or carpet. It can even be placed under wood floors under the right conditions.

  • Almost maintenance-free

With hydronic systems the boiler will need to be checked annually, but electric heating needs no maintenance. 

  • Freedom with interior design

Compared to bulky HVAC systems, space heaters, radiators, and other heating options. Radiant floor heating is the most discreet. It won’t take up valuable space that could be used for furniture or storage.

  • Smart thermostat compatibility

You can integrate a smart programmable thermostat into a preset schedule. This will ensure your space is warm by the time you wake up or get home.

  • Ease of installation

Electric floor heating can be installed within a day anytime flooring is being installed. Hydronic heating systems can take a few days. 

  • Improved air quality

Heating ducts can cause dust and other allergens to circulate throughout your home. Underfloor heating doesn’t need to circulate air, so it helps keep the air fresher. 

  • Completely silent

Underfloor heating runs silently, with no loud air ducts or furnaces to listen to. 

Cons of Radiant Floor Heating

  • Old flooring will need replacement

Unless you’re building a new home or renovating, you’ll need to remove or replace your existing floors. 

  • Installation time

Because you need to apply a self-leveling compound on top of your underfloor heating system, this increases the installation time. It can take a couple of days for the compound to completely dry. There are some choices of radiant heat flooring that don’t need that compound, and those can usually be installed within a day. You may, however, lose more heat through your subfloor going this route. 

  • Floor Height Issues

Radiant heat flooring usually doesn’t add much to the height of your floor. But, if you decide to install insulation boards, that can add another inch to your floor. If your ceilings are particularly low or you’re trying to match the floor height in another room, this may cause an issue. 

Which Spaces Work Best With Radiant Heat Systems?

You can install underfloor heating throughout your existing home. But, it’s usually not recommended unless it’s a new build or a complete renovation. 

Some spaces tend to get colder than others. If you find a certain space is especially chilly, installing radiant floor heat in one or more of these spaces can be a great solution:

  • Bathrooms
  • Kitchen
  • Bedrooms
  • Garage
  • Home office
  • Basement
  • Sunroom
  • Tiny home
  • Mobile home
  • Driveway
  • Treehouse

Installing underfloor heating in your driveway or treehouse may seem a little strange. But, if you live in a colder region this can help prevent you or your family from slipping down the driveway. Your kids can enjoy spending their free time up in the treehouse during some of the cooler months as well.

The spaces listed above tend to experience a lot of heat loss, so if you’re thinking about installing radiant floor heating, these spaces will benefit the most. 

Exceptional Heat Distribution for Living Spaces

Here at South Island Mechanical, our team of professionally trained technicians has over 20 years of experience. 

Higher energy costs from heat loss can be a real issue during the winter but the right kind of heating system can minimize that wasted energy and save you money.

With our expertise, we will conduct an accurate heat loss calculation to ensure the radiant floor heating system is suitable for your home. 

We provide in-floor heating services in Victoria BC and the rest of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Contact us today for more information about underfloor heating, and what system would work best for your family’s needs.