The Operation of Radiant Heating

It’s not necessary to be a house constructor to understand why radiant heating systems are becoming more and more popular. Imagine waking up to the sound of snow falling outside your bedroom window on a chilly morning. Although removing yourself from the luxury of your down blanket might be difficult, your morning coffee won’t brew itself.

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Your bare feet land on a warm wooden floor as you slide out of bed. You go into a bathroom with ceramic tiles that are heated. The kitchen has a warm tile floor that meets your feet. It appears like you are reaping the rewards of radiant heating. or radiant floor heating in this instance.

Radiant floor heating is by far the most popular choice for a radiant heating system in a home, even if other systems employ radiant heating panels to provide warmth throughout the house (RFH).

Installing water-heated tubing or electric heating coils beneath your home’s floors is the process of installing an RFH system. The heat from the floor radiates up through the room using an RFH system, warming anything it comes into contact with.

Consider radiation from the sun (RFH). Even if the air temperature is essentially the same on a bright day, you will feel warmer if you go from the shade into the light. This is how radiant floor heating works. Compared to a typical forced-air system, where the air rises, cools, and then descends to the floor, the temperature in the room is more consistent.

In addition to enjoying constant warmth from floor to ceiling, some individuals seek out RFH systems for their potential for cost savings. RFH may reduce heating expenses by 25 to 50 percent and is more cost-effective to run than furnaces [source: U.S. Department of Energy]. A whole-house RFH system works best in new construction, but it is also possible to properly adapt an existing house. Rather than installing a whole-house system, some homeowners with older houses opt for single-room systems, such as a kitchen or bathroom.

The idea behind RFH is not new. Hot water pipes were first used to heat floors by the Romans, and ever since the 1970s, hot water heating has been the technology of choice in Europe. Apart from the long-term financial advantages, RFH heating produces heat without the noise of furnaces or air ducts. Eliminating blown air may considerably reduce dust mites, making it a better option for allergy sufferers than forced air systems [source: Bottini Fuel].

There are two types of radiant floor heating systems: hydronic and electric. The benefits and drawbacks, prices, and installation techniques of radiant floor heating will all be discussed in this article.

Systems for Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating

You have two options when choosing a radiant floor heating (RFH) system: hydronic or electric. Hydronic heating systems are the better option if you’re heating your complete home because electric RFH systems don’t provide the necessary level of electricity at a reasonable price. Are you constructing a brand-new home or remodeling an existing one? The best option, if it’s new construction, is definitely a hydronic system. Existing homes can have hydronic systems installed, but it will need costly and time-consuming flooring removal.

Let’s imagine you’ve opted on a hydronic RFH system. The first thing to be aware of is that the initial cost will be more than that of a typical furnace unit. A 2,000 square foot (610 square meter) home will cost between $4,000 to $8,000 for a forced-air system [source: Fixr]. The cost of a boiler-equipped hydronic radiant floor heating system ranges from $14,000 to $44,000 [source: Forbes Home]. However, the RFH system is more durable and efficient. The RFH system may be used for up to 40 years, whereas standard furnaces only endure for 10 to 25 years.

The size of your home and the local temperature will determine which heat source is best for you. For instance, you would probably want a boiler system if you reside in Canada and have a large home with high ceilings. On the other hand, you may get away with utilizing your standard water heater if you’re building a smaller Florida home.

You’ve determined that your recently built home requires a gas-fired boiler system. Your system must be installed by your general contractor or RFH professional prior to the flooring being installed. Wet and dry installations are the two types available. Wet installers place a thin layer of concrete between the subfloor and the surface, or they place a concrete slab underneath the flooring. During construction, dry installs position the tubes directly beneath the subfloor without adding concrete to the top. Hardwood, tile, or carpets all sit on top of the subfloor, allowing the flooring surface to immediately absorb heat from the tubes.

There is a big, heated block beneath your floor because the concrete retains heat by acting as a thermal mass. Concrete’s poor conductivity and density are responsible for its capacity to hold heat. Wood has a very high conductivity; see how quickly benches and decks made of wood cool off once the sun sets.

Systems with wet installations require more energy to run and take longer to heat up due to this thermal mass. Since there is little thermal bulk to retain the heat, those with dry installations cost less but run at greater temperatures. In order to send the heat upward, they also need reflective insulation beneath the tubes.

Your boiler or water heater is attached to a manifold – a set of independent pipes that distribute water from a single source into several zones. In this manner, you may use a single programmable thermostat to heat every room in your house independently. A recirculating water pump sends the hot water from the manifold via a pattern of PEX tubing. PEX is a type of flexible, non-toxic, leak-proof polyethylene tubing that can withstand high temperatures.

Maintenance for a hydronic system is modest – the boiler needs an annual check-up, but most current pumps use water to lubricate the components and are low-maintenance. But, since fixing a broken system might be difficult, you’ll need to employ an expert if it breaks. It’s also expensive. Sometimes a unit can’t be fixed and has to be replaced, which comes with the same price tag as a new installation.

The good news is that your RFH specialist can guide you through the many possibilities despite the abundance of variables.

After studying hydronic RFH systems, let’s move on to discussing electric RFH alternatives.