Different Types of Radiant Floor Heat Systems

Radiant floor heat systems are increasingly popular alternatives for heating homes and commercial spaces. These systems work by transferring heat to objects on the floor, by way of conduction. Radiant floor heat systems offer several advantages such as quiet operation, superior heating efficiency and reliability. Depending on your needs and the amount of space in question, there are a few types of radiant floor heat systems you can choose from.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heat Systems

Hydronic systems use water as the medium that carries heat. A central water source and heater provide the water. The heater can be a boiler that operates on gas, electricity or oil, among other options. For smaller heating spaces, a water heater can also be used. The heated water is spread into several zones through plastic or metal pipes or tubing. A thermostat is used to control the temperature in the different zones.

Hydronic radiant floor heat systems have several advantages such as long heat retention and affordability. For new homes, this is the most popular option because setup and installation are comparatively easier than in an existing structure. In hydronic radiant heat systems, the main drawback is that in case of a defect, repairs can be quite expensive and time consuming. The time taken to heat up the water can also be longer in comparison to other comparable systems.

Electric Radiant Floor Heat Systems

Electric radiant floor heat systems use electric coils in tubing, which are heated up to the required temperature. In comparison to hydronic radiant heat floor systems, electric systems can be more expensive to run because of ever-increasing electricity costs. However, some options to reduce heating costs are to install insulation and to run the system at off-peak hours.

Air Radiant Floor Heat Systems

Air radiant floor heat systems use heated air as the heating medium. The heated air is forced through pipes under the flooring, where it spreads the heat through conduction. However, this type of radiant heating is not as efficient as the other two, because the amount of heat that can be carried through air is lower, which results in lesser heating capability.

Wet versus Dry Radiant Floor Heat Systems

A wet installation for a radiant floor heat system involves a layer of concrete or cement that is installed between the floor and the pipes or tubing. Wet installations may cost more initially. Response time is also slow, because of the time required to heat up the concrete layer. However, in the long run, this is the more cost-effective and efficient system, because the concrete holds the heat for much longer. Once the concrete has reached the desired level of hotness, the system can be switched off to conserve energy. In the dry method of installation, the pipes are usually installed directly under the sub floor. Once the system is turned on, it heats up the living space relatively quickly. However, heat retention is lower as compared to a wet installed radiant floor heat system.