What is Radiant Heating Flooring, and is it something worth taking note of? Basically, a radiant heating system supplies heat to your floor, which then transfers that heat onto you. The term "radiant" means just that: that warmth you feel when you touch something. But is radiant heating flooring efficient and worthwhile?
Well, for starters, it's usually more efficient than forced-air heating because you eliminate duct losses by using radiant heating flooring. Also, if you suffer from allergies, then you may have noticed that forced-air heating can do a number to your lungs. Using radiant heating flooring eliminates the distribution of allergens.
Three types of radiant floor heating
Air-heated radiant floors aren't used all that often in residential settings, because they can't hold a large amount of heat. Air is the heat-carrying medium in this type of flooring, and that can prove inefficient, as you try to heat your home with a furnace at night (and, perhaps, try to use solar heat during the day), in order to keep your floors warmed.
Electric radiant floors usually have cables built into the floors or some type of electrically conductive plastic on the subfloor. This type of flooring can prove to be expensive on your electricity bill, unless you have a thick concrete floor or some other form of thermal mass. The thermal mass can keep your house heated for several hours if it's thick enough, which is beneficial if you only need your flooring heated at night, and not in the daytime.
Hydronic radiant floors are the most popular and cost-effective systems. They use heated water from a boiler into a pattern under the floor.
What kind of flooring can you have with radiant floor heating? Tile is the most effective and common type of floor covering used for radiant floor heating. It conducts heat well and (yes!) adds thermal storage. Wood, vinyl, carpeting, and linoleum can certainly be used, but they aren't as effective conductors as tile, and will diminish the effectiveness of the heating system.
Radiant Heating Flooring can be a great addition to your home (or an easy way to add heating to an addition to your home). But be sure you know which type of heating system works best for your existing environment.