Electric Radiant Floor Heating: Cozy Heat Under Your Feet!

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Electric radiant floor heating is more luxury than essential. But, oh, what a luxury! If you have ever dreaded going into the bathroom on a winter's day solely on the basis of that cold tile floor, then you may have considered installing radiant floor heating in your house

5 Essentials You Should Know

  1. Wire Mesh: Wires are looped through and embedded in a mesh mat that can be trimmed and spliced.  Roll out the mat to cover large areas at once.
  1. Best Types of Flooring: Electric radiant heating systems work best when installed under tile, stone, and marble flooring.
  2. Worst Types of Flooring: Your radiant flooring heating system will operate, but not at optimal levels, when placed under:  hardwood, vinyl, and wall to wall carpet. The reason why these floor coverings do not work well with electric radiant heating is because they act as insulators, blocking the heat from the room.
  3. Low Heat: Electric radiant heating systems provide a low heat under floors. This low heat slowly builds up and makes the flooring warm to the touch, and heats the room up a bit. Radiant heat systems can heat floors up to as high as 95 degrees F.
  4. Additions: A good way to heat up additions, without having to extend HVAC ducting. Supplemented with a couple of electric baseboard heaters, radiant heating can provide adequte space heating.

Basic Types

The most popular type is electric radiant heat mats.

Individual wires or wire mesh is sandwiched between the floor's finish layer (i.e., the part that you see and walk on) and the substrate.

Less popular types are hydronic radiant heat and radiant air floors. Hydronic radiant heat involves running hot water through tubes under the floor, much like a hot water space radiator, except in the floor.

Radiant air floors have tubes of hot air, rather than water, running under the floor. In this article, we focus on electric radiant floor heating.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Electric radiant heating systems buried within thermal masses (such as concrete) can retain heat for a long time, even after the power is turned off.
  • A discreet way of heating a floor. With the right temperature setting, it is difficult to even detect that the radiant heat is on.
  • Can help reduce overall heating costs--your HVAC or space heaters do not have to run as hard to heat up the flooring.

Cons:

  • Difficult to install retroactively as the floor covering must be removed.
  • More effective at warming the floor surface "to the touch," rather than heating the entire room (though it is possible to use radiant floor heating as your primary heat source).
  • Uses electricity, which is typically an expensive way to provide heat.
  • Broken wires are trapped between flooring surfaces and are difficult to repair.

Equipment and Installation Costs

According to Warmly Yours, to install an electric radiant floor heating system in a 10 ft. by 8 ft. (80 total feet) room will cost roughly $975

This price includes Warmly Yours TempZone mat, programmable thermostat, a installation kit, and shipping and handling.

Operating Costs

While it depends on where you are located and the cost of electricity there, you can figure on costs of about $0.50 to $1.00 per day, if the system runs 24 hours a day (regulated by thermostat).

A more realistic estimate would be about $0.25-$0.35 per day, keeping the system running within a zone of 8 hours a day in an 8' x 10' bathroom.

FAQs

Do Radiant Floors Really Feel Warm in the Dead of Winter?

Yes, but with reservations.

While it is possible to crank up the thermostat high enough to make the floor feel "warm," the main idea is actually to heat it up just enough to "cut the chill." You want the tile to feel neutral--almost like it would on a summer's day.

Can You Leave the Thermostat on 24/7?

Yes. For example, you can have your thermostat set at 69 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

 When warmer months come around, the thermostat will turn off the heating.

Can You Install Your Own Radiant Heating?

Yes, you can. Anything is possible, but generally this falls under the category of "Best Left to the Pros." Remember, you are dealing with not just one but two expert trades: tiling and electrical. So you would need to be proficient at both.

Which System Is Best:  Mat vs. Cable?

The cable system uses thin, 1/8" wires, each wire about 3 inches apart. Mats come with the cables pre-installed. Both mat and cable systems can run off of 120v or 240 v applications.

Generally speaking, cable allows more flexibility and you can get in tighter areas. Mat is easier to install, but covers only larger areas. Other than that, the heating properties are about equivalent.

Should I Tear Up My Floor To Install One?

This is debatable.  While you may want to think twice about pulling up a perfectly good floor simply to install radiant heating, it is definitely something to consider when installing a new floor.