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How to Choose the Best Radiant Floor Heating System


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.

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