Radiant Heating Explained

Discussion on Radiant Heat

If you've ever been met by the chill of a cold floor first thing in the morning, you may want to consider radiant floor heat as an option for your new home or renovation. Seemingly a relatively modern idea yet subfloor heating was used by the ancient Romans and Turks for their baths and by architectural greats such as Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 20th century.  Here in North Vancouver a developer built 500 ranch style homes completed in 1952. The homes were built on a slab and the radiant heat systems used are still operating today. For those of you that haven't had experience with radiant heat, lets explore its characteristics, uses, advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Radiant Heating

Hydronic systems are used as primary heat to a home and consist of a series of flexible tubes installed over a subfloor, set with a layer of protective concrete allowing for installation of the chosen finished flooring. Heated water is circulated through the tubes by a boiler that also will supply the homes hot water. Any type of flooring can be used with your hydronic radiant heating and although solid wood is not recommended by most due to the possibility of warping we have had long term success through our proven installation techniques.

Hydronic for multi-surface flooring

Hydronic for multi-surface flooring

Hydronic for wood flooring

Hydronic for wood flooring

Electric systems, are generally used for smaller areas like kitchens and bathrooms and not for general heating. The system is achieved through a matted looping of resistance wires installed over a subfloor and set in place with a thin coat of mortar allowing for installation of the finish floor product.

Electric radiant heating

Electric radiant heating

What Are the Benefits?

Radiant heat is hidden from view, with no heat registers to or ducting to have to clean. Heat is produced silently and steadily without the typical fluctuations in room temperatures and drying of air that leads to winter dryness.  Aside from comfort there are health benefits with the absence of dust and allergen circulation.  When a high efficiency boiler is used, heating your home becomes extremely cost effective. With these benefits to your comfort, health and budget we would argue that radiant is the most ideal system for heating your home.

The system comes with a higher cost to put in than a traditional forced air system however this extra cost will soon be absorbed with your lower cost of your monthly heating bills and you can feel good about reducing for energy footprint by at least 30% which is better for the environment.

Let's Compare Radiant to Forced Air Heating

Aside from energy efficiency, radiant systems heat where the people are giving a warmer more comfortable feeling. Forced air blows hot air throughout your house via air ducts and cycles on and off and rising quickly to the ceiling creating fluctuations in temperature.  So may find you are fiddling with the thermostat often to try and get the heat just right.

With radiant heat, the room warms from the ground up, so the warmest areas of the room are the first 6 feet where people typically are. As the tubes are encased in concrete the floor actually retains heat helping with efficiency and stability of temperature.

Comparison of forced-air heating (left) and radiant heating (right)

Comparison of forced-air heating (left) and radiant heating (right)

Innovations and Sustainability

In the 50s and 60s copper tubing, while effective had its drawbacks such as leaking and higher cost but with the innovation of PEX tubing, radiant floors are easier to install and through the innovation of a oxygen barrier they have overcome issues that lead to corrosion of metal components. New products such as Warmboard that enable installation of hydronic radiant systems for retrofit applications are now available.

Solar heating is becoming more popular and mainstream and their thermal collectors are very sufficient at supplying enough energy to heat the low temperature water needed for heating a home. New homes in the District of North Vancouver now require a conduit to be in place for easy future installation of solar energy systems.

Considerations

We will be happy to discuss your project and help you decide whether radiant floor heating is the right option for you according to your budget and feasibility of installation. If it is something that will fit within your parameters then we would highly recommend considering it for your home. When choosing a boiler for your system we recommend a high efficiency one that is capable of supplying both your domestic hot water and your radiant floor heated water.

Feel free to contact us at info@meisterconstruction.ca for further discussion and inquiries.