Radiant Heating | Radiant heated floors
Radiant Heating | Radiant heated floors

Radiant Heat and Floor Covering Options

Imagine a warm and cozy radiator beneath your feet – that’s the concept behind heated floors. The silent comfort of a radiant floor heating system provides a relaxing natural interior environment that is ideal year-round.

When the synergy between your floors and a radiant floor heating system is just right – both mechanically and aesthetically – you’ll discover one of the most ingenious inventions of the modern age.

A radiant floor heater offers the unparalleled ability to provide uniform heat across most surfaces. In bathrooms, your feet can be warm - and so can your shower walls. Radiant floor heaters have transformed the reputation of traditionally cool materials such as marble, tile and stone. Radiant heat offers the most successful heating system for dispersing warmth and comfort evenly throughout your home. With such a large area emitting heat, floor temperatures need only be modestly warm to provide comfort.

Radiant floor heaters are invisible. No heating apparatus, ducts, grills or registers interfere with interior design. Better yet, they’re silent – eliminating the rumbling and annoying whistling common with forced air heat.

Under the proper circumstances, just about any floor covering can be applied over radiant heat.

Each type of flooring varies in thickness and resistances to heat transfer or “R-value,” so your radiant heat specialist needs to know exactly what kind of floors you are installing.

Engineered & Laminated Wood:

Constructed of multiple plies of wood, these products are dimensionally more stable and usually thinner and more conducive than traditional wood floors. Often, they are edge glued and “float” on top of a radiant heating system.

Traditional Hardwoods:

With proper installation, hardwood flooring has long been successfully used with radiant heating systems. Some wood species are naturally more stable, thus preferable for radiant heat. Plank size and date of installation, which affects the humidity of the product, are also factors to consider when planning to install a radiant heating system.

Laminate Flooring:

Laminate flooring is also a great bet for radiant heating systems because it is thin, dense and conducts heat well. Due to the fact that laminates are comprised of a complex series of many layers, it is important that the layers are well bonded and suitable for radiant heating. The quality of the product can affect its compatibility with radiant systems - be sure to check with the manufacturer before moving forward.

Resilient Flooring:

Resilient floor coverings are not only flexible and durable, but they conduct heat extremely well and are easy to maintain. Among this expansive collection, not all are conducive to radiant heating systems. See chart below for specific considerations:

  • Vinyl     Usually very conducive to radiant heating systems. Check with manufacturer for installation instructions.

  • Linoleum     Expands and contracts with temperature changes more than most vinyl, which may pose problems for large room applications in high heat loss areas. Very sensitive to concrete moisture and alkali conditions. -Must be installed at a specific ambient temperature.

  • Rubber     Thickness of the product can diminish heat transfer from radiant heating system to surface.

  • Cork     Thick cork can inhibit transfer of heat to floor surface. 3/8 inch or thinner cork works best.

Carpet, Area Rugs and Padding:

Many carpet styles are well suited to radiant heat, though there is enormous variation among carpet padding in the ability to conduct heat. In most cases, the most plush is not the most thermally effective. Carpet with thin padding will help to maximize the heat transfer of the system and will work best.

Tile & Stone Flooring:

Tile and stone are wonderfully suited to radiant heat because they are thin, dense and conductive, which means they transfer heat exceptionally well. Because radiant heated tile and stone is never cold, it’s a common choice for bathrooms and other places you’re likely to stroll around in bare feet.

Types of Radiant Heating Systems:

Hydronic Systems use hot water that is pumped through tubing (usually plastic) into under parts of the installed flooring. With this kind of system, you can control not only the water temperature, but the volume of flow, duration of pulses of flow or a combination of all three.

Electric Systems use a variety of cables, mesh mats and films to heat flooring. These systems are generally controlled with dual sensing thermostats that combine input from a floor sensor with a room temperature thermostat. When the floors dip below a pre-determined temperature, heat flow is cycled on and off by the room temperature thermostat. A few of these systems can control voltage in relation to room temperature and certain systems can be made so the elements are self-regulating, thus limiting heat output to a certain level.

Points to Consider Before Installing a Radiant Heating System in Your Home:

  • Hydronic Radiant Heating Systems are very complex and sensitive products. Make sure you work with a qualified, experienced professional that specializes in radiant heat to determine which product will best suit your needs.
  • Most radiant heating systems operate at a floor temperature of between 75- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit, with a maximum of 85-degrees.
  • Understand how flooring affects heat transfer and learn about the few limitations in choosing flooring for radiant heat.
  • Get an accurate heat loss and radiant project design on the product you are considering before making a purchase. Different radiant heating products will react and insulate differently depending on the flooring surface.
  • Radiant heating systems can affect both the height of flooring assemblies and the sequencing of installation.
  • You must account for expansion and contraction of your flooring when used with a radiant heating system. Regardless of the type of heat used, some movement in flooring material will occur. This is a natural consequence of changes in interior temperature, as well as seasonal changes in a structure’s moisture content.
  • If you live in a climate with a very modest change in temperature throughout the year, your home’s radiant heating system will require very minimal control management. If you live in area with big fluctuations in temperature between seasons and high heat loss in your home in winter, your radiant heating system will require a more sophisticated control system that can anticipate heat-loss based on outside temperatures.
  • A well-insulated structure is easier to heat and will allow for more flexibility when it comes to choosing floor coverings and radiant system types. Proper insulation also makes the radiant heating system much easier to control and will ensure that the heat travels where you want it – upward through the floor, not down into the ground or through the ceiling if in a multi-level dwelling.

    • Between floors, a traditional fiberglass or bubble/foil product may be used.
    • Under slabs, the traditional method is recommended using closed cell foam insulation manufactured for use in damp locations.
  • Where applicable, consider using floating systems for wood floors and crack isolation membranes for tile. Both allow the flooring to expand and contract separately from the heating system.
  • Floor sensors can be installed with your radiant heating system to keep floors at a fixed temperature while other heat sources actually heat the home.