Pros & Cons of Radiant Floor Heat

A radiant floor heating system uses tubes underneath the flooring in a house. The tubes can be filled with air or water, or have infrared heating elements. The heat from these substances rises up through the floor to provide a room with consistent heat. Those considering radiant floor heating should weigh the pros and cons of the system.

  1. Function

    • Radiant systems, whether installed in the floor, baseboards or walls of the home, provide heat evenly across a room, offering better temperature regulation. Radiant floor heating is a popular choice and is quieter and more comfortable for occupants than forced air units. It also warms a room more quickly. However, it is more expensive and difficult to install.


    • There are three major types of radiant floor heating available for homeowners. The first type uses warm air circulating through the tubes under the floor. This type of radiant heating is used when little heat is needed because air is an inefficient way to deliver large amounts of heat.

      A second type of radiant floor heating uses water or another type of liquid running through tubes under the floor. During the circulation process, the liquid is heated by a standard water heater or electric boiler. This system is very effective with solar-powered water heaters.

      The third type uses electric elements inside these tubes to heat the floor. The elements are similar to those you would find on top of an electric stove, but with better control of the amount of heat these elements emit.


    • Radiant floor heating provides many advantages to homeowners. It creates a more even distribution of heat than a traditional forced air system. Radiant heating also can save homeowners money on their electricity bills because the thermostat can be set lower and it works well with solar-power sources.

      This type of heating is also recommended for those who suffer from moderate or severe allergies. The absence of forced air reduces the amount of allergens floating around in the home.


    • Radiant floor heating also has its share of disadvantages. Air and liquid radiant heating can save a homeowner money, but the long-term savings of electric radiant heating may not be worth the cost of the initial investment.

      Radiant floor heating should be installed by a professional to have it functioning properly. Homeowners also will need to consider what type of flooring will go over the radiant heating system. If the floor is too thick, you may not see the full benefits of the heat being distributed throughout the home.


    • Radiant floor heating only will be beneficial if the proper floor covering is used. Plush carpet is not recommended for this type of heating system because it can trap the heat and make the system work harder. The recommended floor covering for a radiant heat system is ceramic tile. This material allows the heat to rise and adds a small amount of thermal storage to the flooring.

      Carpet can be used if it is thin and is paired with a thick padding. Wood flooring should be replaced with a laminate to avoid any cracks from the wood drying out and shrinking.

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