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What is a Radiant Floor Heating System (and How Does It Work)?

During the winter, it can get uncomfortably cold even inside your own home. Traditional heating systems like baseboard heating or forced-air heating are fine but radiant floor heating has been proven to be an even better heating system for you.

When it comes to home heating systems in Sacramento that are energy-efficient and made with the latest technologies, a radiant floor heating system might just be what you’re looking for.

A radiant floor heating system is a home heating mechanism that supplies or incorporates heat directly to the floor of a house. This system usually involves water-heated tubing or electric heating coils. A network of these heating tubes or coils is built under your home’s flooring.

The science behind radiant heating systems themselves is what makes these home heating options for Sacramento homeowners so cost-efficient.

Learn about the basics of a radiant floor heating system — a cost-saving, eco-friendly, and noise-free way to keep the floor of a house warm (so you can walk around barefoot a lot more comfortably).

First of All, What is Radiant Heat?

Radiant heat is the delivery of heat via infrared radiation, which comes directly from a hot source to objects or people in a room. A simple classic example would be when you step out of the house on a sunny morning. You feel the warmth of the sun, through electromagnetic waves, on your body, all the while, the temperature of the air stays the same. This is radiant heat energy from the sun.

Radiant heat can take place in various forms in our house. A hot stove could be a heat source where you feel the warmth produced from across the room. With a radiant floor heating system, warmth is provided for a house from underneath the floors.

However, despite being called “radiant”, radiant floors do not exactly show heat transfer by radiation but rather by convection. This is the movement of heat is through convection or the rising of warm air and the sinking of cool air.

So, How Do Radiant Heated Floors Work?

Radiant floors work either by having liquid in the tubes that are installed under the floors or by electric cables built especially for heating. The first type is called hydronic radiant floors, and the second is called electric radiant floors.

With this kind of heat distribution system, the room’s temperature is uniform from top to bottom, with the warmth rising evenly from the floor. The room heats from the bottom up, starting with the feet and the body first. Compared to a conventional forced-air system, which uses a small vent to heat a large area, heated floors are more energy efficient as it maximizes the whole flooring to keep the room warm.

Radiant heating systems heat objects, not the air. Therefore, heat is not wasted at the ceiling or lost when a door or window is opened. Warmth is kept where it is needed most, around the floor to keep your feet warm at all times, which is the key to comfort.

Are There Advantages of Having a Radiant Floor Heating System?

Baseboard heating and forced-air heating are fine heating systems but radiant floors prove to be better. In our experience, many new homeowners prefer a radiant floor heating system installed in their houses.

Now might be the time to think about renovating your heating system so it’ll be ready in time for winter and the cooler months. As an option, radiant floor heat has a lot to offer:

  • It’s more comfortable. The main edge of this is the comfort it provides even when you walk around your house barefoot. It can keep the environment cool while keeping the feet warm.
  • It’s an energy saver. While it might be relatively more expensive to install radiant heated floors are more energy-efficient. This is particularly true compared to central heating. And as liquid-based systems use little considerably less electricity, it can save you a lot of money, decreasing heating costs by up to 50%.
  • It can alleviate your allergies. Unlike forced-air heating, radiant heating doesn’t circulate air. As there is no blown air produced, individuals with allergies can greatly benefit from this as this eliminates the emission of allergens, pet dander, and dust particles.
  • It’s versatile. Liquid-based, or hydronic, radiant systems can be heated via a range of energy sources, including boilers fired by gas, oil, or wood and water heaters that use solar energy.
  • It’s less bulky. Most of the equipment is hidden under your floor. No big furnace is required. And radiant systems reduce or eliminate the need for humidifiers because they don’t change the air moisture content of the air in your home.
  • It’s a lot less intrusive. The silent heat it produces due to the absence of loud air ducts is an advantage of a radiant floor heating system.
  • It’s more aesthetically pleasing. Another reason homeowners prefer this heating system is its effect on the house’s aesthetic. The tubing or coils are hidden underneath the floor and no obstructions such as vents or radiators at sight. This allows interior designers to utilize beautiful floorings such as marbles and tiles without worrying about giving homeowners cold feet. It’s ideal for rooms such as the kitchen or bathroom.

What are the types of radiant floors?

There are three main types of radiant flooring systems: electric radiant floors, hydronic radiant floors, and radiant air floors.

Electric radiant floors

Electric radiant floors use water-resistant plastic mats containing coil, typically made from copper or nichrome. These materials are known to have high electrical resistance. These allow it to produce a good amount of heat, warmed up by electricity.

The main advantage of an electric radiant floor is that you’ll rarely encounter problems with it. It’s low maintenance, and if you need some trouble-shooting, you can do it yourself. Even the whole installation of electric radiant heat mats is easy to perform and can be your DIY project.

You can control an electric radiant flooring using either a switch or a thermostat. With this, you can choose temperature settings or set up timers to make the floor warmth ideal in the morning. This kind of heating system can be used with different types of flooring, such as hardwood floors but works best with ceramic tiles. Some types are also known to be safe for use inside showers.

Unfortunately, electric radiant flooring is not ideal for whole-house heating as it is not cost-effective. Most people would install this in selected individual rooms only.

If your local electric utility company charges less for off-peak usage, this can save you some dollars. You can charge the heating elements during this time (off-peak, usually at night) and use the heat throughout the following day. The stored heat can last for eight to ten hours without any further electricity use, given that the floor’s thermal mass is huge enough. This can keep the house warm and comfortable while saving a good amount of money when using this type of flooring.

Hydronic floors

Hydronic or liquid floors are the most ideal for whole-house heating. Given that it also costs less than the other types, it’s the usual choice for residential use.

In this heating method, running hot water goes through a PEX, a flexible polyurethane tubing. This kind of material has a lifespan of more than 100 years, making it an extremely durable plastic tubing. The water that flows through radiates heat to the floor.

A hydronic floor has a variety of sources to heat the water. For large houses, especially those in a cold area, boiler systems may be used, such as an oil-fired or gas-fired boiler. Gas, kerosene, or solar water heater, on the other hand, can be an option for smaller houses situated in warmer locations.

This kind of heating system can also be used between floor joists, making them good for new house constructions or renovations.
While its advantage is its minimal maintenance requirement, a broken unit would need assistance from a professional for repair or, worse, for replacement. It may be expensive and even cost the same as a first-time installation.

Radiant air floors

Radiant air floors use air as the heat-carrying medium. They are mostly seen in commercial buildings because they don’t usually hold a large amount of heat. Unfortunately, this makes it not cost-effective, so it is seldomly installed for residential use.

Any Other Tips I Should Know About My Radiant Floor Heating System?

Radiant floors are preferred by people with allergies. Forced-air heating systems can distribute allergens as they transfer heat. Radiant floors do not. Also, since radiant floors are installed on the floor and convection takes over from there, ducts are not needed.

You can boost the energy efficiency of your home heating system by incorporating the technology of zone controls, a feature that allows you to directly control which areas and rooms of your home are heated, and for how long they are heated.

When used in tandem with one of the various home heating systems from a Sacramento area specialist, zone calibration can save you costs on energy bills while improving the warmth of your home in the winter.

A Final Word About Radiant Floor Heating Systems In Sacramento

If you are looking for ways to more efficiently heat your home this winter without compromising savings on your energy bills, consider radiant floor heating for your home. Highly economical as it uses minimal electricity, radiant floor heating systems have several advantages as well to make your home more comfortable, safe, and aesthetically pleasing.

If you’re thinking about installing a radiant heating system, the professionals at All Year would be happy to help. We’re proud to serve the Sacramento, Roseville, El Dorado County, and Placer County areas. Please contact us anytime via these numbers:

  • Sacramento: (916) 922-7796
  • Roseville: (916) 722-4006
  • El Dorado County: (530) 677-1117
  • Placer County: (916) 624-2124