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What is Radiant Heat?

It seems that everyone is talking about radiant heat nowadays. With the emphasis on clean, renewable heating sources, radiant heat tops the list of efficient home (and business) heating solutions - from heated floors to heated driveways .

Radiant heat involves the transfer of energy that radiates heat outwards from its source. A radiant floor heating system heats the floor and objects in contact with the floor, and ultimately warms the air in the room. A wide variety of proven floor heating systems that can be installed under just about any type of floor surface are available from Warmzone.  

While there are several different types of radiant heating products, there are two basic methods for providing radiant heat – electric systems and hydronic (liquid based) systems. Electric radiant heating systems utilize an electrical resistance element (heat cable) that is embedded under the floor surface. Hydronic systems pump specially treated water through flexible tubing under the floor. The liquid is re-circulated between the floor and the boiler. Both radiant floor heating systems provide a much more efficient means of heating than that of forced air systems.

Another advantage of radiant heated floors is that the systems consist of "zones" that can be controlled individually. This gives you the flexibility to heat only the specific rooms or areas that you choose. A small, programmable thermostat with an external or built-in sensor is used to control each zone.

Electric Floor Heating

Heated tile floor.Electric radiant floor heating systems utilize heat cable to generate the heat source. When an electric heated floor is turned on, energy is forced through a conductive material (heat cable) to create resistance (heat). For most areas an electric line-voltage system is used. The heated floor system's thermostat has an integrated GFCI breaker at the power source to ensure safety, and is available in 110 or 220 voltage. The line-voltage products we recommend are ComfortTile and Warmzone SlabHeat (In-Slab) cables.

For heating small areas such as bathrooms or kitchens, electric under floor heating systems are by far the better choice. In most small to medium-sized home heating projects, the advantages of electric systems are superior to hydronic radiant heat for warming floors. Electric floor heating systems feature much quicker response times, are easier and less expensive to install, and are virtually maintenance free.  

Low-voltage and Line-Voltage Floor Heating Systems

Low-voltage systems use the same voltages and consume the same amount of power as line-voltage products. The main difference is the use of a step-down transformer which reduces the voltage supplied to the heating materials. Due to their safe low-voltage current (8-30v), products like FloorHeat can be nailed and stapled down to secure the product to the floor and are therefore useful for installation under hardwood and carpet. The low-voltage radiant heat product we recommend is FloorHeat.

Hydronic Floor Heating

Hydronic floor heating tubing being installed.In hydronic floor heating systems, water is heated by a boiler and then pumped through a series of special PEX tubing that is installed under the floor. The heated water produces warmth that radiates across the floor's surface. Hydronic underfloor heating is still the most popular form of radiant heat, mainly because it has been around the longest. Hydronic heating was first used by the Romans thousands of years ago, but naturally, there have been significant developments since.

In the most recent hydronic floor heating systems, PEX radiant tubing is installed in a concrete mass called Gypsum Concrete or "Gypcrete." This method works very well in most applications, but there have been developments in the installation process of hydronic under floor heating that make it easier to install for certain situations. This new development is known as a low-mass or modular board underlayment system (InfloorBoard). Rather than embedding the hot water tubing in concrete, the PEX tubing is laid in the grooves of pre-cut wood panels. The floor heating system is ideal for remodeling as well as most new construction projects.

While electric heated floors are generally recommended over hydronic systems, there is still a place for hydronic floor heating and snow melting applications. Hydronic radiant heat is frequently used for large commercial radiant heat applications because the operation cost can be slightly less than that of electric radiant heating systems.

Radiant Heat Controllers

Different thermostats are available to control your radiant floor heating system. You can choose a thermostat that is controlled by a floor sensor (to measure floor temperature) or opt for one with an ambient sensor that measures the actual temperature in a specific room.

Radiant heat can be used as a primary source of heat for your home (or business) or used as a supplemental heating source that complements your conventional heating system.