We don't have radiant floor heat in our kitchen. When in the kitchen, Pooch lays on the floor right above where a furnace duct is located. In our family room, it’s a different story. Pooch's favorite spot is anywhere on our electrically heated radiant floor. Prior to installing radiant floor heat, Pooch preferred to lie on the couch which we attributed to her desire to be close to us. We may have been partly right, but Pooch is pretty smart and knows that warmth, whether body warmth or radiant floor warmth, is better for relaxation than cold.
Pooch looks particularly comfortable and relaxed stretched out on our soothing warm floors. I know she is particularly smart and sometimes I wonder if she is innately aware of the all the health benefits of radiant floor heat. Radiant heat, like the sun, penetrates and soothes the body. Its therapeutic warmth relaxes the muscles, improves oxygen circulation in the blood and promotes healing. The Arthritis Foundation reports that people whose arthritis symptoms respond well to heat have discovered the many benefits of heat therapy. These benefits are well demonstrated by Pooch. While relaxing on the warm floor, Pooch will jump to her feet, stretch and be ready to walk upon a moment’s notice.
Although Pooch prefers to lie directly on the warm floor, fortunately for us, the benefits of our radiant floor heat can be experienced on the couch. Like the sun, radiant floor heat is attracted to people and objects. It does not rely on blowing air for heat transfer. There are no blowing drafts that cause discomfort particularly for arthritis sufferers. Our family room used to be the coldest and most uncomfortable room in our home. It is built over a crawl space and has sliding French doors, two exterior walls, a garage on the third wall and a fireplace. We live in northern Illinois in climate zone 5 where winter can be especially long and cold. Every year we say this is our last winter here. As we crossed into our sixties, arthritis began to affect my wife’s knees. We decided we needed to install floor heat in the family room. Now, it is the most comfortable room in our home. We sit on the couch in comfort, and we both feel more like walking Pooch – even in winter.
When we converted to floor heat, we decided to get rid of the carpet in favor of engineered hardwood which we installed directly over the floor heat system. Getting rid of the carpet got rid of the harbor for all kinds of dust, dirt, dander, mites and allergens. We closed the central heating vents to that room to eliminate the draft, noise and the circulation of allergens. We don’t suffer from allergies, and it’s nice to know the room is cleaner and hypoallergenic, as well as warm and soothing. I wonder if Pooch knows about the hypoallergenic benefits too, as she sneezes a lot less.
To experience the benefits of radiant heat for yourself, install heated floors in your own home. Visit www.ThermoSoft.com to view a great selection of in floor heating products.
As the benefits of radiant floor heating become more widely known, it is important to be aware of several important factors to consider when choosing the best floor heating system for a particular job.
The first step in choosing a radiant floor heating system is to determine its purpose. Radiant floor heat can be used as a supplemental or sole heat source. If supplemental, it’s simply a matter of installing sufficient floor heating material to cover the floor area or traffic pattern where a warm floor is desired. If the floor heating system is to be used as the primary or sole heat source, it must be capable of generating the BTU’s required to heat a given square foot area in a given geography in a given room/building with a given set of “heat loss” factors: insulation, windows, doors, etc. Providers of radiant floor heating systems and contractors can assist with the heat loss analysis. However, what many people don’t know is that because of the better efficiency of radiant heated floors, building heat load can be reduced by 25% to 35% over convective systems.
New construction or remodel, type of finished floor covering, as well as the preferred installation method all factor into the type of floor heating system to choose.
In new construction, both hydronic (water) and electric floor heating systems can be imbedded in the slab when new concrete is poured. Electric systems are easily installed in both new construction and remodels because the heating elements can be installed directly under the finished floor covering. Recent innovations in some hydronic systems allow for installing water tubing directly under the finished floor, but the hot water source, manifold and valves must be considered. Because electric floor heating systems do not require a hot water source and other plumbing, they are maintenance-free and easier to install when remodeling individual rooms like bathrooms and kitchens, as well as basements and additions.
Hard surface floors such as tile, stone, wood and laminate are preferred for floor heating because these materials are better heat conductors than carpet. If carpet is used, select thinner carpet with a lower R-value and padding designed for floor heating or forego the padding.
All floor coverings can be installed over a floor heating system imbedded in a slab, under a skim coat of thin-set mortar or in a thin layer of self-leveling cement. Innovations made in the last 10-15 years have produced floor heating systems that can be installed under floating or glued floors without cement. Electric radiant floor heating mats or pads can be rolled out and simply covered with a rigid, floating laminate or wood floor. Flexible floating floors, carpet and carpet tile can be installed over some of these electric systems with a layer of fiber board to provide rigidity and to protect the heating elements. Nailed flooring requires special precautions. For example, electric floor heating systems are installed between nailing strips, covered and leveled with cement.
Any floor heating system installed in a slab will require longer time before the floor heating system is operational owing to slab cure time. Floor heating systems installed in a thin layer of cement, as in the typical electric floor heating system installed under tile and stone, are operational within one or two days. Floating laminate and wood floors installed without cement are operational immediately. To learn more about heated floors, visit www.ThermoSoft.com.
In an earlier post, I explained why problem resolution is key to creating loyal customers. Here are some simple customer service do’s and don’ts to follow when customers present a problem:
Communicate, communicate, communicate – ASAP & often
Number one, do not avoid communicating with customers about problems. Use the problem as an opportunity to showcase how good your company is at taking care of the customer. Take the call, return the voice message, write the email, visit the job-site; do what you must to reach the customer as soon as possible and follow-up frequently. Customer frustrations escalate when there is lack of communication. Lack of communication compounds the problem and entrenches the customer in extreme and possibly unreasonable positions that become difficult to negotiate later.
Get the facts
Listen, listen, listen to the customer. What is the problem as the customer sees it? How and why does the customer believe the problem occurred? Corroborate with other trades that may be involved. Understanding how the customer sees the problem not only helps investigating the problem further, but also it helps formulate a solution that satisfies the customer.
Don't jump to conclusions
Avoid drawing conclusions and proposing premature solutions based on the immediate problem definition. Depending on the situation, it might help to defuse tensions to hypothetically discuss possible causes and solutions without committing to specific actions until all the facts are known.
Don't be defensive
There is no need to deny fault, warranty coverage or participation in problem resolution especially before all the facts are gathered. The customer could interpret such denials as a rebuff of the customer and the problem. Just because the customer came to you with a problem does not mean that you caused the problem. But it does put you into the best position to facilitate problem resolution that benefits your company’s reputation if handled properly.
Don't finger point
In remodeling, it is possible that more than one trade is involved in a problem. For example, the flooring contractor and the electrician both have roles to play in the installation of an electric floor heating system. It does not benefit either trade or the floor heating system manufacturer to speculate that one or the other trade or the manufacturer is at fault until all the facts have been determined. Pointing fingers only adds to the customer’s confusion and frustration. Once the facts are determined, it is in the best interest of the contractor and the manufacturer to work together in a fair and equitable manner to resolve the problem in a way that keeps the customer happy.
Facilitate problem resolution by seeking solutions. For example, in radiant floor heating, the main concern of the customer is not getting a refund but having a warm floor that can be enjoyed for many years to come. In one case, both the electrician and the flooring contractor disavowed any responsibility for the floor heating system when it failed to operate shortly after installation. Upset, the customer contacted us, the manufacturer, for help. We cooperated with the electrician to pinpoint the problem. After removing a tile, it was discovered that a third trade, the plumber, put a screw through the bottom of the floor severing the heating cable. It was a simple repair and everyone was happy, especially the customer.
It's well known that many home builders and remodelers avoid adding bells and whistles because "it's another thing that can go wrong". On the other hand, there is no better way to generate repeat business and referrals than by differentiating your business with custom solutions. Floor heating is a reliable, maintenance-free, easy-to-install option that generates significant word-of-mouth because of its impact on quality of life. I never had a customer regret installing floor heat. But I’ve heard many people regret missing the opportunity to install floor heat. As a remodeler, installing value-added custom solutions from manufacturers who stand behind their products and turning problems into opportunities to impress your customers are guaranteed ways to increase your repeat business and referrals.
The latest (Dec 2015) Qualified Remodeler Home Improvement Pro (HIP) survey shows the top two revenue sources are repeat business and referrals. According to the poll, 200 top remodelers reported that 29% of their revenue was attributed to these two lead sources.
It doesn’t take a poll to convince those of us in the remodeling industry of the importance of repeat business and referrals. Contractors live or die based on their ability to generate repeat business and referrals. Imagine what your business would look like if revenue decreased almost one-third for failure to retain repeat customers and build referrals.
Returning and referring customers are loyal customers, and customer loyalty begins not only with a satisfied customer, but also a happy customer. Prerequisites of a happy customer include good quality materials and workmanship, a problem-free job completed on time and on budget, and meeting or exceeding expectations. Unforeseen problems are inevitable in remodeling, and how those problems are handled is critical to customer satisfaction. Creating a loyal customer often depends on how the customer is taken care of when problems arise.
Problem resolution trumps all the good things a business does to reach and create a customer. If the customer feels slighted in the resolution of a problem, nothing else matters, and repeat business and referrals are unlikely. What’s worse, a bad review can drive away potential new customers.
More than anything else, customers want assurance that their contractors stand behind the job and the related products and services. Contractors in turn need suppliers who will stand behind their products. It doesn’t mean that contractors and suppliers need to give away the farm every time a problem arises. But it does mean fair and equitable solutions, and it might even make sense to invest in future repeat business and referrals by foregoing a profit or taking a loss on the job. Over time, the return on that investment could aggregate to one-third of your business in the long run.
When it comes to heating your home, office or plane hangar, there is no more efficient method than radiant floor heat. In a home building magazine article over a decade ago, the chairman of ASHRAE’s (American Society of Heating Ventilation and Air conditioning Engineers) technical committee explained why radiant heating reduces building heat load by 25% to 35% over convective systems. Convective systems include heating methods that rely on blowing warm air including natural gas furnaces, electric heat pumps, electric geothermal heat pumps and baseboard heaters.
Radiant floor heating includes two types: water (hydronic) and electric. Both types provide lower heating costs when compared to traditional convective methods. Considering that electric radiant floor heating systems are easier to install and maintenance-free, electric in floor heating has become particularly attractive.
It seems counter intuitive that any type of electric heating could provide the lowest cost heating since electricity rates are higher than natural gas. The ASHRAE article explains that radiant heat feels warmer than convective heating which allows occupants to be more comfortable at lower temperatures--6 to 8 degrees lower! Utility companies advise their customers that they can save anywhere from 3-5% on their heat bill for every degree lower they can turn down the thermostat. Six to 8 degrees times 3 to 5% savings explains why electric radiant floor heating saves up to 40%. But there’s more.
You might be asking, why is radiant floor heat more comfortable than convective heat? The ASHRAE article explains that radiant heating reverses the temperature stratification. With convective systems, a significant amount of heat is lost to the ceiling where it provides little comfort. On the other hand, radiant floor heat warms the body directly from the floor. Like the radiant heat from the sun, radiant floor heat is attracted directly to people and objects. It does not depend on the movement of warm air – nor does it rise to the ceiling where it is totally wasted.
Besides providing better comfort at lower temperatures, radiant floor heat saves in another big way - the elimination of ductwork. Convective systems require ductwork to distribute warm air throughout the home or building. Along the way, the warm air is cooling and leaking. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates up to 35% of heat is lost in the ductwork. With radiant floor heat, this loss of energy is completely eliminated since there are no ducts. With electric radiant floors, 100% of the energy is utilized to warm the floor.
A little understanding of the thermal dynamics of radiant heat easily explains why radiant floor heat trumps convective heating systems. To learn more about electric floor heating, visit www.ThermoSoft.com.