Once upon a time, a brusque cave man discovered the benefit of radiant heat when he stepped on a stone warmed all day by the sun on the way home from a chilly, late night hunting expedition . . . and the world was changed forever.
It took millennia for the concept of natural radiant heat to cross the boundary into technologically advanced heating systems. Today, many homeowners think that under-floor heat is an elite upgrade, but it doesn't have to be.
The technology of under-floor heat may have advanced by leaps and bounds lately, but that doesn’t mean warm floors are out of reach for you. First, get rid of some of the myths surrounding contemporary under-floor heat.
Myth #1 Radiant heat is inefficient because it is electric.
Most under floor-heat is electric, but that doesn’t mean it is inefficient. This type of heating will actually give you more bang for your buck! That’s because radiant heat warms surfaces and objects rather than air.
If you are science-minded, under-floor heat is simple conductive heat. That means that the warmth generated by the electrical wire is transferred to your floor, walls, furniture, and you. If you pick the right conductive material for your floor like tile, it won’t just transfer heat, but hold it and keep it warm with less energy consumption.
Myth #2 Under-floor heat is only for cold tile floors.
Wrong again. Many flooring surfaces—wood, laminate, stone, etc.—are cold underfoot: wood, laminate, etc. Many floors can benefit from radiant heat. Check with your flooring representative to find out if your surface of choice is suitable for under-floor heat.
Tile is most often associated with radiant heat because it is an excellent conductor. It is the champion material when it comes to transferring and holding heat. Tile and under-floor heat go together perfectly because ceramic makes radiant heat extremely effective and efficient.
Myth #3 Under-floor heat is only for colder climates.
Just because you live in Florida doesn’t mean you suffer from cold feet. In fact, radiant heat floors are a hot seller in Florida.
Even in very warm climates, floors are cool to the touch. The earth maintains a fairly constant, cool temperature. Anything on the ground—like your floor—ends up transferring that temperature, thus the cold floors.
Myth #4 Radiant heat is only for the bathroom or kitchen.
Radiant in-floor heat is a viable option for heating the whole house. But many homeowners are choosing to use it more as a luxury feature for the master bathroom or kitchen. Once you know what it feels like to step out of bed in the morning and put your foot down on a warm surface, you might decide that under-floor heat is a great idea for every room of the house. Think beyond the bathroom or bedrooms to include spaces where heat is harder to come by, like the basement.
An added bonus that comes with installing radiant heat throughout the house? It’s faster to install than most other forms of heating.
Myth #5 Radiant heat is expensive.
Electricity may be more expensive than natural gas, but the efficiency and ease of installation for under-floor heat more than make up for that. New in-floor heating systems are very easy to install and save you money on labor.
Ceramic, cement, and stone all transfer and hold heat well, plus they can withstand high temperatures. These materials make in-floor heating so efficient your feet will notice the difference right away and it won’t be long before that change makes its way into your budget, as well.
Myth #6 Under-floor heating is so easy to install, you can do it yourself.
In a world of DIYers, you might think, with enough determination and spirit, you can do anything. But stop for a moment to consider before laying your own radiant heat.
First, this is electrical wiring we’re talking about here, so don’t take the risk unless you really know what you are doing.
Second, some types of in-floor heating require special installation like not putting it under appliances and keeping it several inches from walls. Most of the time, installation of specialized materials is best left up to the professionals. Some of the radiant heat products are so new and different, manufacturers are recommending some training before even a pro installer tries it.
Bottom line, under-floor heating is simpler than ever to install, but you’re still better off letting a pro enjoy that benefit rather than struggling through it yourself.