Heated Floors: Are They a Worthy Investment?
Space heating has evolved a lot throughout the years. What was once a limited technology now offers a myriad of options for homeowners. If you have a central HVAC system, it is likely that you’ve already considered, if not already employ, some add-ons like radiant heating for floors. Heated floors may be somewhat of a luxury for some, but it makes more sense if you live in an area of the country with freezing and below-zero winter climate.
To provide all-around comfort, not only do you want to make sure that air temperature is comfortably warm, but you also want the same temperature for your floors. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night only to step on freezing cold floors? Similarly, if you want to use the bathroom during a cold winter day, wouldn’t it be nice to have heated floors as well?
What is an underfloor heating system?
This home heating innovation makes use of tubing installed underneath floors to evenly distribute heat. It is both an efficient and cost-effective method of heating. Heated floors are not only comfortable, they also have better aesthetic quality because the mechanism is invisible. There are three types of underfloor heating systems:
• Radiant air floors
• Electric radiant floors
• Hydronic heated floors
If you do consider installing heated floors, you need to make sure that you are hiring a contractor with expertise in this area. Not all HVAC contractors specialize in underfloor heating systems.
How does electric floor heating work?
Electric floor heating works by using plastic mats that conduct heat containing electric-warmed coils. These coils are resistance wires made from copper or nichrome with water-resistant polymer wrapping. To picture out the mechanism, imagine the inside of a large electric blanket.
To install electric flooring, the contractor will roll out the matting and install flooring material on top of it. Electric heated floors are perfect for individual rooms because electricity might be an expensive energy source if chosen to heat the floors of an entire house.
As far as flooring compatibility, electric heater floors work best with ceramic floor tiles but is also suitable with most flooring options including hardwood. Since electric floor heating systems are often installed in rooms, it is easy enough to control with a single thermostat or switch. Heating time usually takes about 30 minutes so you need to set the thermostat at least an hour before you intend to use the room.
When it comes to the cost of installing an electric floor heating system, expect to spend around $400 to $800 for a small room. While you can do a DIY installation for a small room, you still need an electrician to lay down the wiring. Retrofitting your bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom with heated floors require you to tear up the existing flooring. The best time to do this is to schedule a renovation to minimize the inconvenience.
How does hydronic floor heating system work?
The other option for adding heated floors to your home is a hydronic floor heating system. It works by pumping hot water coming from a boiler into tubing laid underneath the floor. Some hydronic floor heating systems have water control valves to regulate temperature. Compared with other heated floor systems, hydronic heating systems are the most cost-effective option. Since it is cheaper to install and operate, you can have a hydronic heating system installed for the entire home.
What to consider before installing heater floors
While it is certainly an excellent addition to any home, installing heated floors require a lot of considerations. You have to make sure that the system operates with the correct heat output to heat floors at the right temperature. The factors which affect the heat output of underfloor heating systems include the following:
• Floor size. It only follows that the larger the floor area, the higher the heat output required. Although you have to bear in mind that larger rooms equate to bigger heat loss. If the heated floor section is less than 80% of the room size, the system will not be able to create enough heat for the room to be comfortable, unless it has efficient insulation.
• Floor type and temperature. Another factor that directly affects heat output is the floor temperature. Not all floor types have the high heating capacity so the heat output also depends on the type of flooring material you choose. Solid materials like ceramic tile and natural stone like granite have excellent thermal conductivity. These materials have higher heating output and can be heated up to 29+°C. Softer flooring materials like wood, vinyl, and linoleum have poor thermal conductivity. You can only heat these materials up to 27°C. If you require higher heat output, you need to consider flooring material with a higher thermal conductivity as well.
• Thermostat type. Floor heating systems controlled by a thermostat use a floor probe to measure temperature. The thermostat’s accuracy can also impact the heating output of heated floors. If the thermostat has poor control or probes are poorly positioned, it may cause over or under heating which can damage the floor. As much as possible, you should invest in a high-quality thermostat to control floor heating.
• Floor insulation. To increase heat output, you can also add insulation installed below the heating units. Without insulation, the heat generated by the system will escape below the flooring and not move upwards as intended. This heat loss will translate to increased energy consumption and inefficient heat output.
• Heating system power. The maximum power required for an underfloor heating system is measured in watts per square meter. For a modern well-insulated home, heated floors require the power of between 65-85W/m² to produce the desired heat output.
• Rooms with permanent fixtures. Underfloor heating systems installed in bathrooms with permanent fixtures mean a smaller floor area is fitted with heating. This will affect the heat output; hence, as much of the floor area should be covered with underfloor heating.
These factors should be discussed accordingly by the contractor you hire to install heated floors. Making sure to cover all these elements will not only maximize the heat output but guarantee an efficient system worth the investment.
Are heated floors a worthy investment?
If heated floors are such a great addition to any home, then why aren’t all homes investing in it? Cost is a primary consideration for homeowners who are looking into the option of adding heated floors. If you already have a central heating system. On average, heated floors will set you back around $4 to $6 per square meter of flooring. Add to this the cost of installation and flooring retrofit.
If budget is a consideration, you can look into the option of having heated floors in certain areas of the home. For example, heated floors are best for bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. Small spaces fitted with underfloor heating will not cost much and it will also not amount to a high increase in energy bills. You can think of it as a small slice of luxury in your home.
Talk to our experts at Fischer Heating if you want to learn more about getting an underfloor heating system for your entire home or for specific rooms. They are available to provide you with specific information on costs associated with retrofitting and installation.