Murphy Brothers Blog

Radiant Heating 101

Many of our clients are looking for inexpensive ways to add value to their remodel with an extra, finishing touch.  The focus of this 2 part entry is on radiant floor heating – an add-on that can make a great room even greater!

Radiant Heating 101

In general terms, radiant heating systems (rhs’s) supply heat directly to a floor, walls or ceiling.   RHS’s transfer heat directly from a hot surface to the air, via radiation and convection (the natural circulation of heat).  Such a system that heats a floor is known as “in-floor heating”. 

Advantages of radiant heating

  • Radiant heating is more efficient than baseboard heating and forced-air heating because the transfer if heat is direct, not filtered through duct work
  • Radiant heating helps reduce the effects of dust produced by forced air systems, making it advantageous for allergy sufferers.
  • Most radiant heat systems are more efficient in their use of electricity than other systems
  • Hydronic – or liquid-based – are very versatile, and can be heated with a wide variety of energy sources, including standard gas or oil-fired boilers, wood-fired boilers, solar water heaters, or some combination of these heat sources.

There are 2 basic types of systems that can be used as either primary or secondary heat sources; electric and hydronic.  An electric radiant floor heating system using a network of electric cables built into the floor can be used as a primary source of heat.  However, because of the high cost of electricity, this type of system is only cost-effective if it includes a significant thermal mass, such as a thick concrete floor, and the floor can be “charged” during off-peak hours.  With a large thermal mass, the stored heat in the mass will keep the floor warm for long periods after charging.

Electric radiant floors can also be used effectively in an addition where it would be impractical to extend the heating system into the addition.


Hydronic (hot water) Systems

Hydronic radiant floor systems pump heated water from a boiler through tubing laid in a pattern underneath the floor. In some systems, the temperature in each room is controlled by regulating the flow of hot water through each tubing loop. This is done by a system of zoning valves or pumps and thermostats. The cost of installing a hydronic radiant floor varies by location and also depends on the size of the home, the type of installation, the floor covering, remoteness of the site, and the cost of labor.  Hydronic (liquid) systems are the most popular and cost-effective radiant heating systems for heating-dominated climates.

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