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How Does Radiant Floor Heat Work?

If you’re like most people during the wintertime months, you dread the cold.

As if the snow, sleet, ice, and general unpleasantness of the winter season weren’t already enough to put you in a funk, even within a heated home there are tons of little places that remind you of the cold.

It can feel like everything you touch has a freezing tinge to it, from your windows to the toilet seat, to any of your non-carpeted floors. No one wants to put their bare feet on a freezing cold floor first thing in the morning.

Your traditional convection heater in your home can only do so much to combat these winter blues, but there is another option to consider. Should you find yourself dreading your AM shuffle from the bed to the rest of the house, you might look at installing radiant floor heating.

What is Radiant Floor Heating?

Image of radiant underfloor heat

For those who haven’t already heard about radiant floor heating (RFH), it could be just the answer to your winter woes.

Unlike traditional heating systems, which rely on blowing air to transfer heat throughout a home, radiant floor heating warms a room or home without direct contact. The systems are installed directly into the walls or floors of a home, and the heat radiates from that space.

You may also hear RFH referred to simply as floor heating or underfloor heating.

How does floor heat work?

Radiant floor heat might sound like magic, but it’s really science. The heat is transmitted through electromagnetic waves, and when intercepted and absorbed, it turns into heat. This system allows radiant heat to function without direct contact.

Radiant floor heat can either involve heating coils or water-heated tubing installed in your home’s floors –– in this way, RFH heats from the ground up.

There are basically two different systems that you can use when it comes to radiant floor heating: electric and hydronic.

Electric Underfloor Heating

Electric RFH uses heat-conducting plastic mats containing coils warmed by electricity to work. The internal wires are wrapped in a water-resistant polymer, which are zig-zagged through a mat.

Most people use the electric RFH system to heat one room that usually has with either tile or hardwood flooring. Some even maximize the use of this system (and save money) by charging the heating system overnight and using it during the day.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating

Hydronic RFH systems use a variety of sources to heat up the water in the tubing. These are best if installing new or if you are heating your entire house, since tearing up a lot of flooring can be expensive and difficult. Hydronic systems tend to cost more up front.

Underfloor Heating Pros and Cons

Image of floor mat installation
Electric radiant floor heating mats can be easily installed yourself.

At this point, you may be wondering about any potential disadvantages of radiant floor heating. Here we will break down a few of the underfloor heating pros and cons so that you can make the best decision on what to buy for your home.

Radiant Floor Heating Pros

  • Lasts longer than conventional heating systems
  • Tends to be more efficient
  • Temperature throughout the room is more constant
  • Is silent –– no clanging sounds typical of a convection heater
  • Better for people with allergies; doesn’t stir up dust in the air

Radiant Floor Heating Cons

  • Initial installation can be costly (must tear up floors)
  • Heats up more slowly initially

When does it make sense to have radiant floor heat?

Nuheat underfloor heating
Nuheat electric floor heating mats are easy to install and come in just about any size you need.

The only person who can say for sure if installing an RFH system in your house is the right move is you. However, there are a few main ideas to have in mind before you make the leap to install or decide to wait.

First, consider your needs. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you already planning a remodel, or will you need to install a new system in the near future?
  • Do you primarily need to heat one or two rooms in the home?
  • Have you felt frustrated by the inconsistency or noise of a conventional heater?
  • Are you bothered by the amount of dust in the air that your current heater causes?

Answering yes to some of the above questions may indicate that you are the right candidate for an radiant floor heat system. If you’re not sure, discuss the options with your contractor or another expert.

Warm Your Home with Radiant Floor Heating

If it sounds like radiant floor heating might be the perfect way to make winters in your home a little more cozy, Total Home Supply has the materials ready for purchase to make it a reality. Check out our Nuheat Electric Floor Heating Mats to get a better idea of what you can buy to get RFH in your home.

With a little legwork and the right equipment, you can ensure that those winter mornings aren’t quite so frigid, and the cold winter weather outside won’t even be on your mind.

Until you go outside, that is.

Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.

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