Radiant Floor Heating

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This month our newsletter is all about radiant floor heating. We cover the different types of radiant floor heating, the components that are typically included in radiant floor heating, plans for installation of radiant floor heating and installation guidelines and tips. As always we provide links that will provide more information and references to assist with planning and installing radiant floor heating in your new home.

Conventional heating systems in many homes in North America use a combination of either convection heating or forced air heating. In both cases the air is heated and then circulates through the room or the house to heat the house and the occupants of the home. It is either circulated using convection heating or a fan will force the warm air throughout the home. New radiant floor heating systems are being introduced which are embedded in the floor and provide heat through either electrical or hot water circulation systems. With these new radiant floor systems, homeowners can utilize radiant heat under carpet, hardwood floors or tile.

Radiant floor heating is becoming more popular, particularly for people who enjoy hardwood floors, concrete floors and tiled floors. As many of our readers can appreciate walking on cold tiled floors in bare feet is not much fun in the winter time. A warm tiled floor, heated by radiant heat, warms the entire body and keeps you warm even after you step out of the shower. These radiant floor heating systems are being introduced to add comfort to otherwise cold rooms and in many cases are being used as a primary source of heat in new homes.


In addition in the summary section of this newsletter, under useful links, we have listed all of the web sites that we found to have interesting and helpful information regarding the selection, planning, and installation of radiant floor heating. You may want to utilize these references as well as the ones that are specific to each section of this newsletter.

Some Useful Links:

Radiant Dictionary


The Basics – Types of Systems

There are two basic systems of radiant floor heating available in the marketplace. One system uses electricity and heating wires that are placed beneath the surface of the floor, while the other system uses water circulated through tubing beneath the floor, referred to as a hydronic system. Both systems work well however their construction and maintenance is quite different.

In addition, there are several types of hydronic systems. To begin with there are open and closed systems. A closed system has a dedicated water heating system such as a boiler that heats and circulates the water, while an open system will use the same heater, often your hot water tank to provide the water for your radiant floor heating as well as hot water for the home. Closed systems can use a boiler to heat the water, a dedicated domestic water heater or steam that is circulated through the system. The source of heat to heat the water to circulate through your system can be oil, natural gas, wood, coal, solar, electricity, propane and geothermal if it is available.

Electric systems are far simpler by design. They consist of wires embedded in the floor, which are resistive and therefore generate heat when electricity is flowing through them. Other than a connection to a power source and a thermometer, which is also connected to a sensor in the floor, the system is actually quite simple. As long as you have electricity you have warm floors!

One significant item to note is that homeowners who intend to use radiant floor heating as a sole source for heat in their homes, may need to consider installing some form of air conditioning for the hot summer months if they live in a warm climate. Radiant floor heating works by heating the floor, which then radiates heat into the room, and warming the rest of the house through convection.


In terms of design choice between radiant floor heating using electric heating vs. hydronic, the consensus appears to be that spot heating is best done with electric radiant floor heating, while homeowners who intend to heat their entire home with radiant floor heating will tend to have a better economic result with hydronic systems. Prior to making a decision, homeowners are encouraged to have a design completed for both systems, compare the cost of installation as well as operation over a one year period.

Finally, electric systems consist of wires in the floor and a thermostat, while a hydronic system requires piping, a water heater or a boiler, which must be maintained. Some people will be very comfortable with either system while others will prefer one or the other based on home style and heating sources that are available.

Some useful links to check out

How Does it Work


Hydronic or Electric Heating


Types of Systems


Water & Electric


General Information about Radiant Floor Heating



Electric Systems

The components required for an electric radiant floor heating system include the following items:

  • Heating Source
    • Electricity
  • Heating System
    • Wire mesh with resistive electrical elements embedded in the floor
  • Control
    • Thermostat with temperature sensor in the floor.

Hydronic Systems

The components required for a hydronic radiant floor heating system include the following items:
  • Heating Source
    • Can be electricity, solar, natural gas, propane, oil, wood, coal, geothermal or any other heating source.
  • Heating Systems
    • Boiler – houses the water to be heated
    • Hot Water heater for home
    • Expansion tanks
    • Water hammer arrestors
    • Pressure control tanks
    • Solenoid valves
    • Check valves
    • Back flow preventers
    • Ball valves
    • Balancing valves
    • Manifolds
    • Pressure regulators
    • Gate Valves
    • Pressure relief valves
    • Drain valves
  • Pump
    • Circulate the water through the heater and the tubing located under the floor.
    • Bleed valves
  • Tubing
    • Water circulates in tubing running beneath the floor in the concrete, under wood floors, or on a sub floor of wood, precast concrete, or slab-on-grade concrete.
  • Control
    • Thermostat

Useful Web Links

Component Lists


Components for Hydronic Systems


Plan your Flooring
Radiant floor heating has progressed a great deal in the past few years to the point now that you can almost install radiant floor heating in just about any floor situation including outdoor installations. Having said that there are some basic decisions that you need to make which can be address by a number of questions. Note that many of the web sites that we have referenced, have both installation videos as well as planning tools available. In addition many will provide you with estimates once you submit your requirements.

Basic decisions you need to consider are:

  • Do you plan to heat your entire house with radiant floor heating or
  • Spot heat specific rooms such as the kitchen, bathrooms etc.
  • What is your heating source and type
  • Do you have sufficient room for a boiler etc to provide the heat that is required for a hydronic system?
  • What type of flooring do you have or are planning i.e. carpet, wood, tile, concrete?

As we mentioned earlier in this newsletter, the experts appear to feel that zone type heating is better accomplished with electric systems, while heating the entire home is better accomplished with hydronic systems. Of course this depends on the cost of fuel and the amount of construction required to install each system, whether you are on a slab or have a basement etc.

If you are installing a concrete floor and have not considered radiant floor heating, consider building the radiant floor heating tubing into the concrete now even if you have to current plans to use it. It will be a great selling feature for your home and you may re-consider and add radiant floor heating sometime in the future. Even new hardwood floors can have radiant floor systems installed for future use!

Useful Web Links

Radiant Floor Design


Online Design Tool


Installing Tips

Consumers who are planning to do the installation themselves can learn a great deal of information concerning the step by step methods for installing electrical based radiant floor heating. There are a combination of both manual step by step instructions and videos which are illustrative of how to go about installing the electrical based Radiant floor heating systems. Visit several of the useful web links for more information concerning step by step installation details.

Readers can also download detailed manuals for installing radiant heating tubes and hydronic systems, designed for do it yourselfers who can accomplish this with excellent results.

Every state will have their own specific building codes and we strongly recommend that you review your localities building code requirements. We have included one reference site that lists some of the building code bodies with links and further discussion on building codes.

Details, Details, Details

There are many details concerning installation of both types of systems so we have developed some generalized installation tips. We recommend that you read up on all of the installation manuals and guidelines that are provided on the various websites to properly prepare yourself for either a self installation or even if you plan to hire an expert to complete the installation for you.

These are just a few details that apply to installation tips.

  • Complete a Dry Run if possible
  • Read all of the FAQ’s before starting
  • Pre fit all of the connections to ensure they fit and you have the correct ones
  • Only do a wet run, when you are satisfied that everything is ready
  • Plan your tubing and tanks so air bubbles rise to the highest point
  • Clean all pipe fittings well in preparation for soldering

Utilize the services of the various web sites to assist in planning your installation

Useful Web Links

Quick Installation Overview


Electric Radiant Heat Installation


Installation manuals


Step by Step for Electric System


Installation Details


Building Codes



Designing, purchasing and installing a radiant floor heating system can be simple and straightforward if you properly plan your system to meet the needs of your home. Readers must first decide if they are going to use spot radiant floor heating or equip their entire home with radiant floor heating. In moderate climates radiant floor heating can be the main source of heat, however if air conditioning is required, separate arrangements will need to be determined.

Your decision regarding electric or hydronic radiant floor heating comes down to a number of factors, which only the consumer can assess and make a decision on. Room size, house size, zone heating, budget, wiring and heating sources are all elements that every consumer must take into account.

Radiant floor heating can now be installed in existing homes, however the best time to install radiant floor heating is when your home is initially being built. In fact, even if you do not plan to use radiant floor heating, installing the tubing or electrical cabling gives you the option in the future to add it as well as increasing the potential resale value of your home.

Finally there is a great deal of quality information covering everything from building codes, selection, to video installation guides available to assist people to learn more about radiant floor heating. Readers can download installation manuals and review videos that will demonstrate how to install radiant floor heating.

Useful Web Links

Warmly Yours


Radiant Heating


Watts Radiant






Radiant Floor Heating – Concrete Network


Backwoods Home magazine-Radiant Floor Heating




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This page was updated on June 2009 and is Copyright © 2003 by Global Com Consulting Inc.