Adding radiant floor heating to your home is an investment in comfort, energy savings, and better air quality in your home. It can also raise the value of your home, should you decide to sell.
Adding radiant heating to your home may require some creative thinking and planning – but make no mistake: radiant heating can be installed under an existing floor. It is also a great way to add heat when you are installing a new floor.
How does underfloor heating work?
Underfloor radiant heating delivers heat through the floor. It warms the floor, rather than the air around it, delivering comfort that represents a very low impact on your energy resources.
There are two main types of radiant heating systems: electric and hydronic.
Electric underfloor heating systems
In the case of electric underfloor heating, loops of charged cables generate the heat. These can be run through the flooring material between the floor and the subfloor or they could be made of conductive panels that are placed beneath the floor layers. Electric underfloor heating makes the most sense if you have hard floors such as concrete or tile, however, it is not ideal for carpeted spaces or for whole-house floor heating systems in colder climates as the cost of use can be quite high.
Hydronic underfloor heating systems
Hydronic heating systems use hot water to provide heat. If you use a boiler to heat your home, this is the preferred method as it connects to your existing system and is far more efficient. Hydronic systems circulate water through polyethylene tubes that are placed either directly into the flooring material (wet system), or they can heat the air between the floor layers (dry system). Dry systems are usually less labor-intensive to install and can be less expensive in the long run.
Installation of Floor Heating
There are several methods of installing floor heating into an existing home.
Install floor heating under the joists
If there are floor joists that are accessible from below, floor heating can be installed fairly easily using mats fitted with internal wiring. These mats are sized to fit in between the joists and are affixed to the subfloor, wired together to connect to the thermostat. Insulation is added to direct the heat upwards.
Install floor heating under a tile floor
Tile floors must be stripped to the subfloor. Mats are then placed in the areas of highest use. The tile is then replaced on top of the mats.
Install floor heating under concrete
In the case of a concrete floor, you will need to be able to add another layer of concrete on top of the existing floor once you lay down the mats. This process may add up to three inches in height. This may affect your doors, your baseboards, or other features of the home.
How to Retrofit Different Parts of the Home
Radiant floor heating is most effective in smaller rooms that have lower ceilings. In larger rooms with vaulted ceilings, for example, radiant floor heating might not be the most energy-efficient choice.
Installing radiant floor heat in first-floor living spaces
First-floor living spaces are generally retrofitted for radiant heat from below. First, aluminum tracks are set between the joists, which will carry the hot-water tubing or electric mats. Installation is then sprayed in or placed beneath the heat source to force the heat upwards.
Installing radiant floor heating in second-floor bedrooms and baths
Second-floor rooms don’t always allow access to the subfloor, so the heating system must be installed from above. This will change the level of your floors by a couple of inches and may require some adjustments to doors.
Installing underfloor heat in a finished basement
Installing underfloor heat in a finished basement is generally accomplished by placing the mats or tubing, after which we apply a wire mesh or foam insulation. The final flooring will be placed on top of these layers, either pouring concrete or gypsum. Much like the second-floor retrofit, this will raise the level of the floor and may require some adjustments to doors.
Adding floor heating to your existing home is something that can be done regardless of how old the house is or how it was made. If you are planning an addition, now is the perfect time to consider radiant heat as at this stage, it is the easiest time to plan and install.
If you would like to learn more about radiant underfloor heating, reach out today.