One sign that it is here is when you wake up in the morning, trudge into the bathroom, and, when you put your bare feet on the floor, you look up and expect to see Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane because it feels like you are stepping barefoot onto an ice rink.
There is a way to avoid that. It’s called radiant heat. A radiant heating system is an efficient way to provide heat from below the floor to provide warmth to very specific areas, such as bathroom or kitchen floors.
Radiant heating, which can be a supplement to your existing HVAC system, also has other advantages. It is silent. It is invisible, with no need to install baseboards, ducts or grills. And it is energy efficient. Think about it. When your feet are cold, the rest of your body gets cold too, meaning you need to set the thermostat higher to stay warm. Warmer feet…warmer body…lower temperature…lower energy costs.
The Two Types of Radiant Heat
There are two ways to provide radiant heat: electricity and hot water.
Electric radiant heat systems are a popular choice for smaller areas such as a bathroom. These systems allow you (or an expert) to space wiring to meet your specifications and control the temperature through a thermostat. Many of these systems can be installed only under tile, but others can be imbedded in concrete, and any flooring can be installed on top of it.
Hydronic (hot water) systems are ideal for larger areas, such as a big kitchen or a basement floor. These are efficient, but generally more expensive to install. These systems circulate water from a boiler or water heater through polyethylene tubing. These systems can be covered by any type of flooring, including hardwood and tile.
No matter which type of system you install, keep this in mind when considering flooring:
- Tile is probably the best choice, because it both conducts and stores heat. Especially if you are considering just putting radiant heat in a bathroom or laundry room, consider tile flooring
- Carpeting is not as good at conducting heat, but it does store heat better than hardwood or laminate. If you use carpeting, consider a thin carpet with dense padding
- Hardwood flooring is possible, but keep the thermostat below 81 degrees to avoid warping the floor. And keep the relative humidity in your home above 30% to prevent splitting and other types of moisture damage