Warming Up with Radiant Heat
By Liz Koch and Matt Weber
Extreme How-To explores the various systems and benefits of radiant heat.
The 3 AM tip-toed scamper to the bathroom can be avoided! Not with a prescription, but with the increased comfort of warm, radiant-heated floors. The concept of radiant heat has been around since the Ancient Romans, but allowing heat to rise naturally to create even warmth in a room is finally starting to gain in popularity for today’s homeowners. Instead of conventional heating systems where a radiator sits against a wall creating pockets of hot and cold air throughout the room, this highly energy-efficient system heats your floors, which then transfers heat evenly throughout the rest of the room.
Comfort level is also greatly increased with radiant heat. In addition to solving the problem of cold tiles, the objects in the room (couches, chairs, etc.) will be heated via the floors, allowing the average temperature of the room to be lower while maintaining a higher level of comfort for the people in it. This allows homeowners to save big on their heating bills. Other benefits of radiant heat include the absence of both visible components and noise output from the system. There are several methods of installing radiant heat, and the method that you choose will depend heavily on the design of the house and rooms in which you want to add radiant heat.
Hydronic Radiant Heating
If you’re installing radiant heat during the construction process, the most efficient way to heat your home is through a hydronic in-slab radiant heat system. For this method, you will need to design a loop system of tubing to circulate hot water under the floors. Depending on the width of the tubing, the loops will vary in recommended length. The most commonly used tubing size is 1/2 inch, which cannot have loops longer than 300 feet. Each loop is connected securely to a manifold and when the system turns on, hot water is pumped through the tubing. The water heats the concrete slab, and the heat emanates from the floors, rising into the rest of the room. When the room reaches the temperature set by your thermostat, the hot water will stop circulating, but the slab will remain warm and keep your room at the desired temperature for several hours before requiring more hot water to circulate.
What You Need for an In-Slab System
A Loop CAD Design. If it’s your first time dabbling in radiant heat or you just want to be sure it’s done right, you can get a loop CAD drawn by a Radiant Certified Designer, usually for under $100. This CAD (Computer Aided Design) maps out the installation of your tubing system. A loop CAD with a materials quote is $75 from PexSupply.com.
ThermaPEX Tubing. A hydronic system uses cross-linked polyethylene tubing with an oxygen barrier. It is flexible enough to bend easily and strong enough to be approved by all major plumbing and heating codes.