It’s holiday season. New years is coming. The excitement of the season is at an all time high. You wake up in the morning and there is a fresh snowfall on the ground. You feel all warm and toasty inside. Then you get out of bed and step on to a cold floor. Mood changed. As you walk your way into the bathroom, and step on more cold flooring, you think to yourself, why didn’t I get heated floors when I had the chance. We’ve all had that thought before, at least once. It must be nice to have heated floors. They can be programmed to turn on before you wake up so that first step out of bed on that cold winter morning, doesn’t have to be so miserable.
Let’s go back in time a little bit to before you had your new floors put in and lets make the decision to have the heat put in to keep those little toes of yours warm throughout the day. Now there is more than one way to heat the floors, so here we will talk a little bit about your options and we can decide what works best for you.
The Two Types Of Radiant Heat
Most homes are equipped with baseboard headers or forced air. Baseboards need to warm up to 150 degrees or so in order to heat a space to a comfortable temperature. Most radiant heat systems only need to run between 84-90 degrees to heat the same space to the same temperature, making radiant a more efficient heating option. The great thing about radiant heat is how evenly it heats a space. Think about your current set up whether you have forced air or baseboard heat. How much cooler is is opposite the heat source? How much of a difference is it as you are standing right by the vent or radiator and then you move back a few feet? Think about how much of a difference it would make if the heat was coming from below you, evenly. The radiant heat will warm up the flooring (won’t get hot) which will evenly warm the space.
There are two options when it comes to heating your floors, electric and hydronic. Electric is supplied by running a series of resistance wires throughout a space, or rolling out a mat with the wire which is a little more limiting. Hydronic systems are heated by a series of hot water tubes to and from your boiler. This is a little more common and more cost effective to run. Both systems will effectively warm the flooring above, whether you go with tile, hardwood or laminate. It is not recommended you run heated systems under carpeting, as it will not effectively heat your space due to the thick padding that comes with it.
A Little More About The Electric System
The electric system will need to be on its own breaker to ensure it has enough juice to keep it going. You wouldn’t want the heat shutting off if you’re running a blow dryer. So you will need an electrician to make the necessary connections. The electric system takes a little less time to install, especially if you are using the mat systems, they must be encapsulated in mud or thin set, and they very evenly distribute heat to the surface above. One of the most common questions we get asked is how will the system know when to shut off? The answer lies in your floor and at the thermostat. Most systems come with a sensor that is installed in the middle of the room. This tells the thermostat what temperature it is under the flooring, while the thermostat monitors the ambient temperature in the room. Once it hits your desired temperature, it kicks off. The hydronic system works in the same manner. Let’s talk dollars and cents now. The cost to purchase one of these systems will vary for sure by size, but the real cost is the operating costs. These systems generally use 6-10 watts per square foot to run, which can prove to be costly in larger areas. You may want to stick to this method of heat in a smaller room such as a bathroom.
A Little More On Hydro Heat
The hydronic system may take a little more time to run the tubes and find a plumber who can hook it up to the boiler. One of the cons to this system is the tubing is usually 1/2″ thick which needs to be encapsulated in mud, raising the height of the floor by at least an inch. It is less expensive to run a hydronic system than an electric system. Hydronic systems can be much easier to work with around toilets and vanities, as opposed to the roll out mats. You should never run heated systems under cabinets or too close to the wax ring on your toilet. Keep it within 6″ of both. Even at 6″ from the wax ring, there will be enough heat transferred to the china of the toilet that it will heat the seat a little bit. Perfect for those mid-winter night trips to the bathroom.
Make The Decision Early On
Now that you’re warming up to the idea of putting heat in your flooring (see what we did there), you can make a more educated decision prior to your next renovation project. Which system is worth the time and the expense for you? Our recommendation is to go with the radiant heat if the flooring is getting ripped up. It is the best and easiest time to set it up, otherwise it may be another few years before your next remodel.
In the mean time, stay warm out there!
And if you decide to DIY, double check all manufacturer installation instructions. Good luck and be safe!