The Joy Of Underfloor Heating Systems

Would you like to lower your energy bill and have warm feet at the same time? It may seem impossible, especially if you are heating with an old radiant heat system like a furnace or wall heaters. I grew up in a house that had a forced air, oil burning furnace. I remember on cold winter mornings fighting my brother and sisters in order to stand on the in-floor registers when my mom turned the thermostat up as we got ready for school. I shiver just thinking about it. There was a good reason the house was cold at night.

We were trying to keep the heating costs down but this thrift came at the expense of comfort. If we weren’t standing on the register then our feet froze (at least it seemed like it). This system of trying to heat the house by blowing hot air into the room is not very efficient and not very comfortable. But that was not near as bad as one of the homes I rented after becoming an adult.

This house had ceiling radiant heat. Electrical wires spread around on the ceiling sheet rock and then covered with sheet rock “mud.” I don’t know who came up with this idea but I guess they missed the day in grade school science where the teacher talked about heat rising. The ceiling was always hot while our feet felt like ice cubes again.

Underfloor heating is quickly gaining popularity all around the world. Warm feet is one of the reasons why these heating systems are becoming so popular. There are two main types of systems available: water underfloor heating and electric under floor heating. With the wet underfloor heating systems, a polypipe is usually installed either before the concrete slab is poured or within the floor joists if a normal framed floor is going to be used. The concrete system works well because the mass of the floor works as a heat sink and thus will radiate warmth for several hours. But these are usually only installed in new construction.

If you are looking into updating your heating system, no matter what the reason, you seriously need to consider underfloor heating. People who are currently using underfloor heating swear by it and say they would never go back to any kind of forced air. Not only that, but many contractors also recommend this type of heating system and the underfloor heating cost can pay for itself with savings in energy use.

What Are Underfloor Heating Systems?
Underfloor heating systems are simply installed under the floor to heat the home. With these systems there are two different kinds of floor heat source, which one you choose will depend on what your contractor recommends or which one you personally prefer. The first type is the water underfloor heating system, which is also one of the most popular systems. How this system works is a series of tubes are placed underneath the floor, hot water is pumped through the tubes, which heats the concrete over the tubes. The concrete then warms the air around it to allow your house to be comfortable and it also keeps the area at foot level warm and toasty.
With the second type of system, installed under the sub floor in a home, the tubes are secured within the dead space between the floor joists. Special underfloor heating insulation is then packed in around the piping the force the heat up to the floor. This is a great system for remodeling with underfloor heating. Water is again heated by the cheapest energy source available, whether it is natural gas or electrical, and then the heat is transferred to the living area.
A third type is electric underfloor heating which is designed to heat the same way, but this uses heat tape or mats and electricity rather than hot water and tubes.

What Are The Benefits To Using Heating In The Floor?
Perhaps the biggest benefit to underfloor heating is how well it heats the home due to the even heat distribution. With these systems, heat is distributed across the entire floor, not out just a single vent. As an added benefit the even heat distribution also helps to save money on energy bills. The reason for this is that the heated air rises from the floor towards the ceiling rather than being forced down to the ground. Most of the time, if your feet are warm then the rest of your body doesn’t require as warm of an ambient temperature. The heat naturally rises so it improves how the heat is distributed. It is very easy to warm up. Underfloor heating keeps the room more uniformally warm

Another benefit to these systems is how unnoticeable they are, no more having to worry about where you are placing your furniture. The reason for this is that unlike forced air you do not have any vents to worry about, all of the heating system is located underneath the floor. Not only is it unnoticeable, you do not even hear the system running. With forced air you often hear the furnace fan kick on and can hear air rushing out the vents. The only way you will even be able to tell the underfloor system is on is when the floor begins to heat up.

The last benefit to using these an underfloor heating system to heat your house is that each room has its own temperature control. This is so much better than one thermostat because it prevents the whole unit from kicking on just because the room the thermostat is in is too cold. This also allows you to individually control the heat in each room, which is nice for rooms that get too hot with forced air. If one family member likes a warm room and another one likes to have it cooler, it is easy to control and make everybody happy. Even better is that once the room gets too the proper temperature it stays there for a longer period of time than forced air due to the heat being evenly distributed.

Are There Any Underfloor Heating Problems?
With how nice all of those benefits sound it should come as no surprise that you know want to run out and get underfloor heating installed in your home. However, before you jump into this decision it is good to find out the problems with this type of heating system. Sure, it helps you save money on energy bills and provides more efficient heating, but one problem is how long it can take to heat up the room. The reason for this is that the water must be heated to a specific temperature in order to heat the concrete or if you have heat tape that has to reach a certain temperature before the concrete is warm enough to begin emitting heat. Not only does the system take longer to heat up, but it also takes awhile to cool down. Most in floor heating systems like this have programmable thermostats to control the heat source so you can start heating the home an hour before you get up in the morning, or an hour before you get home from work or running around.

Underfloor heating systems are not designed for a quick response to temperature changes. Therefore, if you find the room getting too hot or too cold, it is going to take several minutes before the system will respond to the temperature change. Not only that but the type of flooring that is being used can affect how the system performs, carpet is a bad choice with this system because the heat has a harder time getting through the carpet. You can make can help this problem some by using a low R-factor carpet.

Can I Install Underfloor Heating System?
Electric underfloor heating systems are easy enough to install yourself, but installing them will damage any flooring that is already in place. These systems consist of a rolled up mat that simply has to be unrolled and covered with flooring. With this type of system granite, natural stone or even ceramic tile works great because of how thin the system is.

Water underfloor heating systems are a lot harder to install in an existing concrete floor because the tubes used to carry the water and the liquid compound that is similar to concrete that is poured over the tubes. This is a very intensive project and is really not recommended for a remodel.

It is much easier to learn how to install underfloor heating if you have a floor with floor joists and there is ample room to move around under the joists. The tubes are not thin enough to be covered by flooring of any kind so they have to be placed under the subfloor. Installing this type of system involves some special tools and knowledge and should not be attempted if you are not familiar with plumbing tactics.

Not to mention you will also need to worry about having a boiler or water heater system that is large enough to heat the water that is used to generate the heat. The system must be sized just right to ensure that everything works efficiently; one simple mistake can cause major problems. It would be best to at least consult with a underfloor heating contractor

Are Underfloor Heating Systems Expensive?
With all of the benefits of underfloor heating systems you are probably wondering just how expensive they are. Underfloor heating costs vary greatly based on what type of system you choose and how big of an area you need to install the system in. And also what type of system you choose.
The water systems are a lot more expensive to install than an electric system, especially in older homes with concrete slabs because of how much extra work has to be done to install the system. Electric systems cost less to install because there is not as much work involved, and they can be easily installed yourself under wood flooring, laminate flooring, or new tile. This can save you a ton of money on labor.

Solar Underfloor Heating
It would seem that using solar heating for the underfloor system would work very well but there are a few draw backs. The main one is that you usually want your heating done at night or when there is cloud cover. The greatly reduces the efficiency of the creating the warm water. Underfloor heating systems with solar can be used in some areas that are cold and clear during the day but usually they need to backed up with some other type of heat source when the sun is not available.

Photo courtesy Bryn Pinzgauer

If you find this article helpful, check out these other posts:

For more information:

Leave a Reply

Welcome to My Site

Are you looking for up to date information on Garages, Floors, and Coatings? If so, this is the place you need to be.

This site came about one day because I was looking for the Best Floor Coating to install in my garage. I just couldn’t find any good information that would help me to make a decision.

I was complaining about the lack of a good site and so I decided to just do it my self. This is the result. A place where you can get unbiased answers and ask questions. I hope you find it useful.

Recently Commented

  • Andy: Hi Leonard, I would recommend an acrylic latex or latex enamel wood floor paint. Be sure your floor is...
  • Leonard Pomaranski: Andy, What would you used on a wood front porch w.hich is painted and chipping off????? I heard...
  • Matt: There are a variety of natural green cleaning solutions. It is hard to stay eco friendly from the carton to the...
  • evolution-virag.com: Better if you choose a NOT rainy day to install garage floor protector…
  • Andy: Hi Mitzi, thanks for the question. I would say you may be happy with a clear epoxy coating over the top. One of...