A History of Warmth
Believe it or not, radiant floors are one of the oldest forms of heating a structure — dating all the way back to Roman times. Radiant floor heat provides numerous benefits, including increased comfort, even temperatures, cleaner air, no cold drafts, no unsightly ductwork and no floor vents, all while being quieter and more energy-efficient compared to forced-air heat.
In a radiant floor heating system, warm water flows through tubes located underneath the floors. That warmth radiates up from the floors and warms everything it comes in contact with — including people.
And radiant is compatible under any type of floor covering — carpet, wood, slate, tile, linoleum, and even concrete — making design possibilities endless.
Ultimate Energy-efficient Comfort
The water in a radiant system has a capacity to transport energy 3,500 times greater than air, so it can heat (and even cool) using less energy than a forced-air system. This amounts to greater comfort at a lower thermostat setting, which provides lower energy bills. In fact, more people are comfortable with radiant floor heating at a lower thermostat setting than with forced-air heating at a higher thermostat setting.
Additionally, a radiant heating system works in zones, allowing different areas of a home to heat at different temperatures. This allows typically chilly rooms, such as bathrooms, basements and entryways, to receive more heat when needed. At the same time, rooms with less traffic, such as a den or formal dining room, can be set to a lower thermostat setting, making the system even more energy-efficient.
Tips for Designing Comfort Into Your Home
- If comfort is your top priority, it is important to entrust a third-party certified design professional who can independently represent your interest over and above the interests of the builder, trades and suppliers. Seek out a designer who understands the integration of architecture, building enclosures, interior design and HVAC systems.
- Note that a design professional may or may not be the installing contractor. In the case of a separate installer, ensure the contractor is an experienced radiant installer — and check references!
- Be clear on what you expect from the radiant system — are you looking for warm floors or space heating, do you want it in your entire home or just specific areas, is lower energy costs or improved indoor environmental quality (IEQ) your main concern?
- What is your construction plan? Are you integrating into an existing frame? Can you accommodate construction changes for potential benefits? Are you using the best application based on your heating source?
- What is your heat source? Are you locked in or can you be flexible to coordinate with low-mass radiant potential?
- Do your research on the equipment. It is important to use brands that have continually demonstrated long-term market dominance. This will not only ensure a solid system but will also help with resale value.
Budgeting for IEQ
.: A builder budgets for HVAC systems between 5% to 7% of construction costs to deliver a “built to code” system (which is the lowest allowable grade before the building inspectors are obligated to fail the system). Meeting above code in efficiency and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) standards requires in excess of 12% to 15% of construction costs.
Forced-air Heat vs. Radiant Heat
Radiant keeps heat near the floor where people are located.