Problems With Radiant Floor Heat


Radiant floor heating is a type of heating system that uses wires, tubes or pipes installed underneath a floor to radiate heat up from the floor and into the room. Radiant heating typically uses electricity to heat the elements, but natural gas or oil is sometimes used. While radiant floor heaters have many benefits, there are also a few problems with the system that potential buyers should be aware of before they purchase it.


  • Installation is one of the biggest problems with radiant floor heating. Radiant floor heating is installed under or in the floor foundation on cement foundations, and under the floor in pier and beam foundations. Some types of radiant floor heaters install between the joists or tiles in a floor, but in most cases, specialized flooring is necessary. Unless the radiant heat system is installed when the house is built, installing the system is messy, time consuming and expensive. Sometimes the entire floor must be pulled up to install the heating lines.


  • Radiant floor heating is also expensive in two ways. During installation, expenses run high because of the tubing or wiring that must be threaded through or around the floors in the whole house. These wires or tubing are somewhat expensive, and labor intensive to install. Radiant heating can also be expensive during usage because of the way that the system works. The heat slowly radiates through the room, which takes a lot of energy in large spaces. This can cause electricity bills to increase rather than decrease.


  • Radiant heating floor systems are not very efficient. They must heat to extreme temperatures to radiate their heat into the entire room. The heat inside the tubes or wires is constantly producing heat, but much of the heat is dissipated into the floor, walls or air before it is noticeably warmer in the room. In colder climates, the radiant floor system may always run because of the lack of efficiency in the system. Some radiant floor systems are more efficient than others, namely the hydronic systems used with ceramic flooring.

Lag Time

  • The time between when the heat is initially turned on and when the heat becomes noticeable in the room can be several minutes up to one hour. This is due to the way that radiant heat operates. Radiant heat is similar to a fireplace. The heat radiates from the floor and heats up the objects closest to it first, eventually heating the entire room. The length of time between when the system is turned on and when the room actually feels warm is enough to discourage some people from using radiant floor heaters.

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  • Photo Credit Parquet floor image by Einar Bog from
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