Selecting The Right Flooring For Radiant Heating
Imagine getting out of bed on a cold winter morning and having it be warm to the touch.
That’s why many homeowners select carpet for the bedroom. Plush fibers hold their warmth better, and make it more comfortable on your feet, even if the rest of you feels the coolness of the air.
Thanks to technology, there are other ways to feel warmth no matter what type of flooring is underneath your feet.
Imagine stepping out of the shower to warm tile. Or standing in front of the mirror getting ready, and the flooring keeps you warm.
Or maybe the kitchen has always been a bit chilly. Not if heat radiates from the floor above. Your feet stay toasty warm as you whip up a batch of cookies for the kids to enjoy when they get home from school.
Sounds great, right? That’s why more people are turning to radiant heating.
But you can’t put radiant heating underneath everything. Certain flooring materials have better thermal conductivity than others, meaning they generate heat better as it moves through the flooring.
You don’t want to wait for heat to move up and through the flooring material. You want good conductivity to allow the floors to heat up quicker, giving you more warmth from the moment it moves into operation.
How underfloor heating works
Before we get into flooring choices, let’s talk about how underfloor heating works. It’s a growing source of heat in homes throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
Underfloor heating works in one of two ways.
Using a water-based underfloor system, pipes are installed underneath the flooring and connected to your boiler. When you switch on the system, the pipes are filled with low temperature warm water, which in turn heats the flooring. Heat rises, which means the heat from the floor continues to rise and heat the air.
Using an electric-based underfloor system, electric wires are fitted underneath the flooring and connected to your fuse box. When the system is turned on, electricity flows into the wires and produces heat to warm the flooring material.
The benefits of underfloor radiant heating are many
Heat rises. It only makes sense to get your heating source as close to the ground as possible to keep your home warm and comfortable. You can’t get much closer to the ground than with radiant heating. But there’s more to it than that.
Think of how your gas-forced air furnace works. On a cycle, it releases heated air through a series of vents in each room. It blows a considerable amount of air through to fill up the room and make it warm. With radiant heating, it’s spread evenly between all corners of your room. Then it moves evenly up from there. That keeps more of the heat at foot level, where you notice it most. That means circulation is also more even as it fills the room with warmth.
It’s also more cost effective. It can run at a much lower temperature and still keep you feeling comfortable. That means less energy use, and a lower utility bill each month. Many radiant heat households report seeing an immediate drop in their monthly energy use.
It can save on space. Radiant heating exists where you don’t see it – underneath your floors. It doesn’t take as much space as other heating units, especially if you use blowers and radiators. Even vents and registers may no longer be needed, meaning you can shirt your floorplan just a bit, and put your sofa where you truly want it to go.
Are you concerned about your health? Do you cough and sneeze more when the dust blows through the ductwork? No more airflow problems with radiant heating. That means particulates don’t flow freely throughout your home every time your HVAC unit turns on.
Are you sold on the idea of radiant heating? Then let’s get to the run part – figuring out which flooring choice is best.
In many cases, the flooring materials seem obvious. But in others, the choices may surprise you. Here are our favorites for installing with radiant heating.
Tile and Stone
We would be remiss if we didn’t start with the most apparent – tile and stone. They have a high thermal conductivity, which means they are a perfect choice for heating up the floor quickly. They also retain their heat well, giving them the perfect qualities for keeping your home warm no matter what the temperatures are outside. That’s why you often find them in saunas, sunrooms, and any place where you want to retain heat. They can easily be heated into the 80s and beyond.
The thicker the tile, the longer it takes for heat transfer. Installers often recommend sticking with a tile ¾” thick or less for the most responsiveness to the radiant system. But don’t think that will limit your choices. With so many tile and stone options on the market today, you’re sure to find one you love.
Love your hardwood? You’re not alone. People all across the Front Range have a hard time thinking of anything else inside their homes. Different types of wood have different thermal properties. That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a consultant that truly understands hardwood properties. The more dense a wood is, the thinner the board, the better they are at conducting heat.
When you heat the floor from underneath, it can change the moisture content of the wood, so it’s important to choose wisely. You’ll find engineered wood is one of the best to install with a radiant heating system. Always check with a manufacturer before you settle in and make your final selection.
If you’ve been shopping for flooring lately, you’ve noticed the vinyl market is changing. Luxury vinyl planks imitate hardwood so well, even the experts have trouble seeing the difference.
Vinyl has another positive – it works well with radiant heating. Keep in mind that there are often heat restrictions that come along with working with radiant heating. In many cases, radiant heating will max out around 80 degrees. Anything higher will impact the flooring.
Vinyl also heats up quickly, and cools down equally as fast. That may be important to you in places you spend small amounts of time – your master bathroom, for example.
What’s your choice?
With so many choices, you’ll be amazed at what you can do to create the right aesthetics in your home.
If you have your sights on using radiant heating inside your home, select the right flooring to create the warmth you’re looking for in your home. We can help you make that choice. Give us a call today.