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Radiant floor heating is one of the most cost-effective ways to heat a home. Not only does radiant heat provide warmth underfoot, but it also heats rooms from the ground up, including the walls. The result is longer-lasting heat produced with less electricity. Read on to find out the benefits and costs associated with radiant heating.
What is Radiant Floor Heating?
The heat produced by a radiant system comes from a length of heating tape, coil, or pipe installed in an S-shape beneath a room's flooring. This type of heating "radiates" warmth outward towards other objects, which is much more efficient than traditional convection-style heating or a forced air furnace. These other types of heating systems rely on heated air that is transferred to living spaced through a network of ducts. Air is a poor conductor of heat and therefore significant heating loss occurs with convection and forced air systems.
Radiant Floor Heating Types
There are two major types of radiant heat systems: hydronic and electric.
Hydronic Radiant Heating
This type of radiant heat is generated by heating pipes installed underneath floors. The pipes use water or another viscous liquid which transfers heat directly to the floor above it. Compared to an electric system, a hydronic system is a much more cost-effective way to radiantly heat an entire house. Both wet and dry hydronic systems are available.
Wet Installations: A wet hydronic installation involves pouring concrete over heating pipes. The benefit of this installation is that the concrete is heated up as one solid mass, so it gives off heat long after the system is shut off, resulting in lower energy bills.
Dry Installations: In this setup heating pipes are laid atop the subfloor and the finish floor is then laid directly over the pipes. While a dry system is much more cost-effective to install, there tends to be a bit more heat loss than with a wet installation.
Electric Radiant Heating
Large interconnected mats with electric resistance wires are installed between the plywood subfloor and the finish floor in an electric radiant heat system. The mats are linked to a thermostat that controls the temperature.
While electric radiant heat isn't a cost-effective means of heating an entire house due to the large quantities of electricity needed, it is a perfect solution to heat a bathroom or a small bedroom. Electric radiant heating works especially well in bathrooms with ceramic tile because ceramic absorbs and holds heat extremely well.
Radiant Floor Heating Costs
The following prices are based on installing radiant heating in a new construction home or as part of a remodel in which floors are already being ripped up. Costs for retrofitting an existing home can as much as double, as existing floors must be removed and replaced.
- Installing a wet hydronic radiant heating system throughout a 2,000 square foot home might cost $15,000 to $20,000. Installation of a dry hydronic system is slightly less expensive at $12,000 to $16,000.
- Electric radiant heating system installation for a 2,000 square foot home costs $10,000 to $12,000.
- Installing electric radiant heat in a small bedroom or bathroom starts at $500 to $800.