Tips & AdviceWhat are the Benefits of Heated Floors?

What are the Benefits of Heated Floors?

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Innovations in home construction, combined with an increased focus on energy efficiency, have made heated floors more popular, especially as an upgrade in new homes. If you associate heated floors with luxury and high expense, you may need to think again. The latest heated flooring systems can add comfort to new or retrofitted spaces while providing benefits such as healthier indoor air and energy savings.

What are heated floors?

Heated floors use a specialized system to generate warmth below a surface material such as tile. Over the years, the logistics involved in transferring heat through flooring have improved, making a radiant system easier to install and use in new homes. Heated flooring can also be retrofitted into existing homes. If you’re already considering replacing your current floor, it may be the ideal time to swap for heated floors. Or, you can install heated floors and keep your current flooring by accessing the subfloor by going through the ceiling of the floor below.

How do heated floors work?

If you’ve ever stepped out of a steamy shower and placed your bare foot on a cold tile, you might have wished for a way to warm the floor to the same temperature as the air around you. A heated floor can solve this problem by using an electric or hydronic system underneath your choice of flooring. Floor materials such as ceramic, stone, or even engineered hardwood can conduct heat from the radiant system throughout your kitchen, bath, or other room.

Scientifically speaking, heated floors use infrared radiation to transfer warmth through a compatible material, such as ceramic tile, to the surface of a room. This radiant heat then spreads to other objects and surfaces through a process known as radiant heating. The warmth generated by the sun or your kitchen stovetop are other examples of radiant heat. You can feel the temperature rise from direct sun rays shining on your face or from an activated burner when cooking. Similarly, heated flooring systems add warmth through the floor to anything it comes in contact with, such as your feet.

Radiant heating systems also incorporate the process of convection, where warm air rises within a space. As the floor in a room heats up, the air closest to it also increases in temperature and rises through the room, carrying additional warmth.

Electric versus Hydronic Heated Flooring Systems

The most common options for heated flooring include electric or hydronic power. Air-heated flooring systems exist but generally lack the necessary cost-efficiency for residential homes.

Electric Heated Flooring

Electric systems use wired mats or cables placed below the floor to generate heat. The mats below the floor can fit the measurements of your room. Electric-powered options are easier to install than hydronic systems, with lower upfront costs. They work best in a limited-sized space, such as a bathroom. If you’re handy and experienced at installing tile flooring, you might even consider adding this type of heated flooring to your home as a DIY project.

Hydronic Systems

A hydronic system sends hot water from a boiler through tubes running below the floor to warm a room. The added complexity of a hydronic system typically calls for professional installation. Hydronic-powered heated floors have a higher initial price tag, but they can efficiently cover larger areas than electrical systems. As a result, they may save you more in energy costs over the life of the system.

Heated flooring design options

While you can install a heated flooring system under various flooring options, some materials work better than others. When selecting your flooring, ask your designer or contractor for samples of materials that are specifically compatible with a heated flooring system.

Tile floors conduct and retain heat efficiently, which makes them an optimal choice for a radiant system. Tile is also water-resistant and holds up well in humid areas of the home, such as kitchens or bathrooms, where a heated flooring system may be located.

Other flooring materials can pair with heated floors successfully, but some might work better than others. Your local climate and humidity may influence the type of flooring material you select. The amount of moisture in the air and year-round temperature variations may affect certain flooring materials. Hardwood floors may not be as effective in areas with high temperatures and humidity as they are less likely to transfer heat efficiently with a radiant heating system. If you prefer wood floors, heated flooring manufacturer Warmboard recommends sticking with laminate or engineered wood, which is thinner but still dense enough to conduct heat properly.

It’s even possible to place radiant heat under vinyl and carpet, but the products used should be specifically rated for heated flooring systems. The padding under the carpet can also make a difference in the efficiency of a radiant system.

The Benefits of Heated Floors

Aside from keeping your feet warm, heated flooring systems offer several other advantages in a home.

Provides an Alternative Heat Source

Running heat from your existing HVAC system might be expensive or inefficient in newly added spaces, such as a sunroom or an addition to your home. Rather than dragging a portable heater from room to room, a radiant heating system is another option for safely heating a small space. Radiant heating can also pair with your existing HVAC system to provide a second source of warmth in rooms where your current heat supply falls short.

Indoor Air Quality

If you suffer from common allergies, you may notice an improvement with radiant heat. Heated flooring systems do not rely on circulating warm air through vents and are, therefore less likely to spread dust or other allergens from room to room.

Potential Energy Savings

Heated flooring may help you save on energy bills, and these savings could depend on the size of the room you’re heating and the efficiency of the system you choose. According to the Radiant Professionals Alliance, radiant heating systems can deliver comfortable heat efficiently while using less energy.

With forced-air heating systems, some warmth may escape through ducts as air travels through the house. Alternatively, radiant heat transfers through infrared radiation and convection, which does not rely on air vents or ducts.

When using a radiant system, the thermostat can sit at a lower temperature, and you may even use smart technology to switch radiant heat on and off as needed.

Even Heating of a Space

Heated flooring systems tend to heat a room more evenly than systems that rely on air pushing through vents. With forced air, areas closer to the vent may feel warmer than other spaces or surfaces in a room. Radiant heating systems generate warmth that travels along the entire floor’s surface.

Noise Reduction

Radiant heated floors are generally quieter compared to other in-home heating systems, which kick on and off in response to temperature changes.

Snow Melting and Extended Use of Outdoor Spaces

Radiant heating systems can also go under a deck, walkway, or patio. The heated surfaces help to create a cozy atmosphere and provide the added benefit of extending the amount of time you can use your outdoor space. Snow and ice will melt faster with radiant heat, helping with snow removal while decreasing the likelihood of slipping and falling on ice.

Added Value to your Home

Upgrading to heated floors adds value to your home that you can leverage when trying to sell. Potential home sellers can advertise this feature as a luxurious benefit that saves energy. Sellers can increase their asking price by providing new buyers with an already-installed feature.

Factors to Consider Before Adding Heated Flooring to Your Home

While heated flooring options continue to improve and become more efficient, homeowners should also consider the higher cost and more complex installation process. Demand for heated flooring may also depend on the local climate. In colder environments such as the Northeastern U.S., the benefit of heated flooring more heavily outweighs the installation costs compared to warmer areas such as Florida, where homeowners would use their heat less frequently, or not at all.

Retrofitting

Retrofitting a heated floor in an older home often requires pulling up an existing floor, which may not make sense at a time when a large renovation is not needed. Additionally, the extra layer of the new heated flooring system could raise the flooring surface, which may cause issues, including compatibility with other fixtures in your room.

Homeowners thinking about adding radiant heat in a bathroom should evaluate the best way to remove existing flooring. Understand that the best way to add radiant heat may be by going through the ceiling of the room below. Assess the current state of your HVAC system and determine if you really would benefit from the addition of radiant heat.

New Construction

For new construction, consider the costs of adding heated floors before choosing this home upgrade. Although ease of installation improves for new construction, heating systems in newer homes are often quite efficient on their own. Thus, the added cost of a heated flooring system may not be the best use of your home-buying budget. Depending on your climate, and your preferred flooring material, other builder upgrades could give you more enjoyment or add more value and efficiency to your new home.

Conclusion

Heated floors can add both a modern and luxurious feel to your home. If you’re considering a home remodel involving flooring upgrades, or you’re building a new construction home, it’s worth the time to investigate the latest heated flooring options and determine if this investment makes sense for you. Find out more by talking to a contractor or flooring professional with experience installing these systems.

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