What are Radiant Heated Floors?

Radiant heated floors provide a smart, efficient way to warm your home. As the name implies, heated floors radiate warmth from the floor up, keeping you warm and comfortable from head to toe during the cold winter months. As far as home improvement projects go, radiant heated floors are an economical way to update your home, enhance your comfort, and boost your equity.

Installing a radiant heated floor

What are Heated Floors?

Heated floors offer a clean and efficient means of heating your home. Radiant heat originates at your feet, so luxurious warmth is slowly transferred throughout the room with very little - if any - wasted energy. The comfort provided by radiant floor heating systems is unique, and truly must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Heated floors are especially beneficial in rooms where small children spend much of their time playing on or near the floor.

The two technologies of floor heating systems are electric and hydronic. Electric heated floors typically utilize thin, electric heat resistance cable. Hydronic floor heating systems use a boiler to heat specially treated water that is pumped through a closed loop of special plastic PEX tubing installed below the floor's surface.

Both systems rely on a network of heating elements installed beneath the surface of the floor, controlled by a thermostat that coordinates with sensors to keep the floors at optimum temperature. Sensors are available that sense room temperature as well as floor temperature, depending on your system. But which system (electric or hydronic) is best for your floor heating needs? Generally, electric floor heating systems are the most practical and flexible choice for most projects, especially for small sized rooms or to complement existing heating systems. Because hydronic radiant heat systems require a mechanical room with a boiler, manifold, and pumps, the initial installation can be costly.

How do Heated Floors Work?

Hydronic and electric radiant heated floor systems share three main components: a heating element (electric resistance cable, or PEX tubing for hydronic systems), a contactor/control center, and an activation device (thermostat, timer, etc.).

Electric radiant heat systems feature fast response times. The radiant heating cables can heat a floor in 30 to 60 minutes. Another attractive feature of electric heated floors is that they are silent and installed under the floor, making them virtually "invisible".

Hydronic radiant heating systems use a boiler to heat a specialized mixture of water and propylene glycol that is pumped through the embedded network of PEX tubing. This usually takes a little more time to heat the same area.

Heated floors offer the most efficient heating technology today. The radiant heated floor warms the room from the floor up. The system radiates warmth through objects to gradually wash the room in evenly spread warmth. These floor heating systems are particularly comfortable for children who spend much of their time playing on or near the floor. Because the warmest areas of the room are lower, where people are – rather than near the ceiling, as with forced-air systems - the thermostat can actually be set to a lower temperature. Because of the efficiency of radiant heat, the systems also provide a cost-effective means for heating entire homes as well as providing supplemental heat for your most popular rooms.

Tile being installed over floor heating cable and thinset

Compatible with all Standard Sub-flooring Materials

For heating tile floors, the ComfortTile® floor heating cable or mat system is the most recommended solution. This reliable heat cable is the most popular floor heating system for a wide variety of floor surfaces. ComfortTile heat cable is easily installed directly under tile or natural stone to provide comfortable, evenly spread warmth in your bathroom, kitchen, entryway, or other hard-surfaced areas. The floor heating mats are compatible with all standard sub-flooring materials, and also, its low 3/16-inch (3 mm) profile makes ComfortTile heat cable ideal for renovations.

Tubing for a hydronic floor heating system installed.

Increase your Comfort and Save on Your Heating Costs

Heating expenses are a significant part of a household budget. By installing a radiant floor heating system, you turn a small investment into real cost-savings, not to mention increasing the value of your home. Radiant floor heating systems not only provide superior warmth, but are also extremely efficient. With heated floors, you can lower room temperatures by a few degrees yet still enjoy the same level of comfort as a room with a higher temperature setting that is warmed by traditional heating methods. Heat isn't wasted by blowing hot air from vents that quickly rises to the ceiling before cooling.

Cutaway showing hydronic floor heating system

Where and When can you Install a Radiant Heated Floor?

Virtually any floor surface in your home, whether it's tile, vinyl, hardwood, or even carpet can be heated. One of the most versatile floor heating systems, ComfortTile floor heating mats, can be installed under a wide range of floor surfaces. The versatile heating element features thin heating cable so there is very little floor buildup. The mats with pre-spaced cable can be ordered in various lengths, and heat an area 24-inches wide. If you can access the floor joists from below, you can also apply radiant heat to existing floors. Warmzone's RetroHeat® floor heating systems feature ultra-thin heating elements that can be stapled up between the floor joists to heat the floor above. (Insulation is then installed over the heating element to direct all the heat upward.)

Floor heating mats being installed

ComfortTile mats feature thin heating cable on an adhesive-backed fiberglass mesh for easy roll-out installation. The mats with pre-spaced cable facilitate quick installation, and the mat backing can be cut on site to make turns as needed. (However, be sure to never cut or damage the heating cable.) ComfortTile floor heating systems have been around for decades, and are a proven favorite among homeowners and professional installers. The systems are reliable, effective and offer precise control with Warmzone's advanced thermostat options.

The greatest cause for concern when installing hydronic heated floor systems on any remodeling job involves the complexities of the thickness of the PEX tubing. However, Warmzone addresses these issues by offering the most advanced, low-modular in-floor boards that offer the most efficient and advanced alternative. Warmzone hydronic systems house PEX tubing in its proper spacing and pattern, and can be installed directly beneath wood, carpeting, tile, and other surfaces. For more information on Warmzone's hydronic floor heating systems, visit our hydronic floor heating systems web page.

Warmzone is an established leading provider of radiant heated floor systems, with expertise in both electric and hydronic floor systems. Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer, or a veteran contractor, Warmzone offers products and expertise to help you get the most out of your heated floor installation. Call Warmzone today to see if there is a qualified installer in your area (888-488-9276).

Why Install a Heated Floor?

Warm feet are a big reason for installing heated floors, especially if you have a lot of hardwood or ceramic tile in your home - not to mention kids, who spend most of their time playing on the floor. Heating from the floor up is a great way to control cold drafts at floor level and ensure a warm environment for everyone, especially the little ones.

Electric and hydronic radiant heated floors are also very energy efficient. Unlike traditional forced-air systems, radiant heated floors are room-specific. With the help of sensors and an advanced programmable thermostat, you can efficiently heat one room, or several, depending upon your needs. This can ultimately result in considerable savings on your monthly utility bill.

With conventional forced-air heating systems, air is blown out of the registers at temperatures over 100 degrees. It immediately rises to the top of the room where it quickly cools, before dropping back down to the lower levels, resulting in stratification of the room. Your head may feel warm while your feet seem exceptionally cold. The natural reaction is for most occupants to crank the heat up some more in an endless quest to be comfortable. But with radiant heat, you don't have the ongoing chase for the elusive comfort zone. Warm air steadily rises from the floor, but it does so evenly, keeping the comfortable warmth at levels where occupants enjoy it the most.

Heated floors also come with additional economic and health benefits. The efficiency of radiant heat is unmatched, as very little heat or energy is wasted. With forced-air systems the blower pushes warm air - as well as dust and allergens - throughout your home, reducing air quality and compromising your health. This can be an issue for those with allergies, the elderly, and small children. (Additionally, warm air still tends to escape from the closed registers.) The health issues are minimized or even eliminated when you supplement, or convert your existing heating system to radiant heat.

A heated floor with cutaway showing membrane and heating element