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Waves of Warmth: Radiant Heat Flooring

Alternative Methods of Heating, Heating & Fireplace Inserts, HVAC, Radiant Heat, Related Products December 30, 2004 Matt Weber

Have you ever noticed that no matter how warm your house is, if your feet are cold then you feel cold all over? Even if the air in your house hovers around the 70-degree mark, that warm air is attempting to heat everything surrounding it to that temperature. These surrounding elements include your floors, walls and ceilings, all of which are colder than the air temperature and draw heat away from your body.

On the other hand, if your entire floor is heated to 72 degrees, then this large heated surface will radiate heat outward to all areas of the room. A heated floor coupled with a 70-degree air temperature does a great job warming you up from head to toe. It can bring the feel of summer to your home during the cold seasons, making the living space comfortable enough for shorts and bare feet in the middle of winter.


Plus, radiant heat floor systems offer the popular combination of comfort and energy efficiency. The Radiant Panel Association (RPA), a trade organization for the radiant heating industry, estimates that these systems can reduce a home’s energy usage by 25 to 30 percent when compared to forced-air systems, because they use direct heat rather than air currents. Silent operation is another bonus. And because these systems are free of the drafts associated with traditional ducted heating systems, they also keep indoor air cleaner by not circulating dust like forced-air systems do.


The direct of heat of radiant floor systems reduces the dust and allergy problems associated with the drafts of a forced-air system. (photo courtesy Uponor-Wirsbo)

The technology for radiant heat flooring came to the United States from Europe, where it has been used in home construction for many years. Radiant heat flooring is available in two types: electric and hydronic.

Hydronic systems generally feature 1/2-inch under-floor flexible polyethylene pipe that carries hot water across the floor. The flowing hot water is what provides the floor’s pervasive warmth. These systems are often installed in whole-house new-construction applications. Hydronic systems can be powered by gas, oil, electricity or solar energy, making them more flexible and economical than electrical systems for whole-house applications. Wirsbo and Watts Radiant are two leading manufacturers of hydronic systems.