Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Systems

A Treat For Your Feet!

Hydronic Radiant Floor HeatCredit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/378058

Nobody likes a cold floor on a cold morning, but what can you do about it? One of the coolest things you can do to improve your home is install hydronic radiant floor heating systems beneath your flooring material of choice. These systems use hot water to radiate heat throughout your home and through your floors, resulting in a pleasantly warm floor to stand on during cold mornings. They are economical and efficient alternatives to traditional home heating.

This article is all about infloor radiant heating systems, and is intended to act as a primer to anyone interested in buying and / or installing something along these lines. We'll talk about the technology behind the system, and the installation procedure to get it in place. We'll touch on price, and what other options are available out there. Hopefully by the end you'll feel a bit more prepared when it comes to hydronic in floor heat!

Let's get started.

Technology of In Floor Radiant Hydronic Heating Systems:

How They Work

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating SystemsCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Col%C2%B7lector_terra_radiant_i_tubs.JPG

The concept of radiant hydronic floor heating systems is actually quite simple, and one that has been used for thousands of years. Rather than using a centralized heating system to force hot air throughout the house, in floor hydronic heat utilizes heating coils buried underneath hardwood or tile flooring. Taking advantage of heat's natural tendency to rise, these systems can gradually heat a house from the ground up.

The concept isn't new, as the Romans used hot water pumped beneath floors through pipes to heat homes and baths. The technology really isn't any different, just more efficient. 

The term 'hydronic' refers to the use of water for transportation of heat. The obvious other choice is electric, where coils are heated via electricity rather than using pipes filled with heated water.

There are a number of sources of heat for the water of a radiant hydronic floor heating system, including gas or oil boilers, kerosene, or even electric or solar water heaters. The great thing about these systems is that they can be modified depending on what your home has already set up. 

The tubes carrying the water are placed over top of a slab of concrete, and underneath of the flooring material of choice. The slab works to retain heat for a long time, meaning it's quite energy efficient. Both tile and hardwood flooring conducts heat very nicely, meaning that it transfers upward and into your home. Infloor radiant heating systems are perfect and subtle methods for keeping your home nice and toasty.

Like other forms of heat, hydronic radiant floor heating systems can be controlled by a central thermostat by making use of a manifold to determine where the heated water is distributed. 

Advantages of Infloor Hydronic Heating Systems

Hydronic Heated Floors and Savings

Infloor Hydronic Heating SystemsCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Circuit_de_menjador.JPG

It is admittedly an involved process to install hydronic radiant floor heating systems in a home, and the costs involved with the initial placement is high enough to require some convincing for most people, so here goes.

Infloor radiant heating systems, both hydronic and electric, will save you money over the long term. They are more efficient heat wise (since the concrete slab will retain heat that is otherwise lost out through the walls) and they will last a lot longer and be almost maintenance free. Obviously the initial purchase and installation is costlier, but only by a few thousand dollars, which won't seem like a lot after 40 years of low maintenance use!

Another advantage of infloor hydronic radiant heating systems is the quality of the heat. You get to enjoy the feeling of being toasty from your feet up, something that forced air units can't provide. It also helps to avoid 'hot' and 'cold' spots in the home by evenly distributing the temperature through the air.

Another advantage: a radiant hydronic heated floor will raise the value of your home considerably. It's one of those factors that make people 'ooh' and 'ahh' when viewing a home, and it's perceived as a luxury item by many folks. 

Comparison of Hydronic Floor Heating Systems and Electric:

Advantages of Each

The other option on the market is electric radiant in floor heating, and it's a great one too. Installation is quite similar and it relies on conductivity rather than heated water in pipes to generate heat. The main difference in the systems is scope, installation process and cost.

An electric radiant in floor heating system is usually intended to be a lot smaller in scale than a hydronic one. Most electric systems on the market are intended for single rooms, and they can often be installed by yourself with little know how. You just need an electrician to come and wire up the thermostat. 

They are not generally intended for whole home projects, and are better suited for, say, a bathroom renovation including new tile. Therefore, the costs associated are much lower than hydronic heated floors, costing as little as $800 for a single room. 

Consider your project scope to decide which system is best suited to your needs.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Systems:

A Few Notes:

-The best place to start when looking to install a radiant hydronic floor heating system is to talk to a trusted plumber, electrician or contractor. Then you can get a better sense from a professional about what your personal project might entail, as well as personal tips.

-There are a few companies to check out online. Radiantec is a good source for hydronic infloor heating systems and they have many DIY options if you want to save money and go that route. Also consider Warmboard, another radiant hydronic heat manufacturer with lots of experience in the biz.

-Most hydronic heated floors should be installed by a pro. There is a lot of electrical and plumbing know-how involved, so don't try to get it done yourself unless you really know what you're doing!

-Carpet does work with radiant floor heat, but it's less noticeable and effective than hard flooring options like wood and tile. 

Good Luck!