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Radiant Heating: The Basics

radiant heating installation

Radiant heating is a popular addition to a flooring installation. Here are some of the basics of radiant heat when thinking about choosing and installing it.


For anyone suffering through winter, the thought of getting out of bed or out of the shower and encountering a warm floor sounds heavenly. With radiant heat flooring, this concept is achievable. Even better, you can find your favorite flooring in a style compatible with radiant heat. Whether you love ceramic, carpet, or wood, radiant heat is an option to consider for any room.

What is radiant heat flooring?

Radiant Heat Flooring is a technique for heating a room. Heat runs through the entire floor, creating a quieter, more energy-efficient way of heating a room with the mechanisms for heating concealed in the floor. This method of heating supplies a room with an even distribution of heat rather than the temperature ups and downs that can happen with a traditional furnace.

Do I want electric or hydronic?

Two popular styles of radiant heat flooring exist: electric and hydronic. Electric runs wires beneath the floors to create the heat. Hydronic applies the same principle but with tubes of hot water instead. Generally, if you want to do one room (the bathroom is a popular option), electric is the way to go.

For the whole house, experts recommend hydronic. For those who are especially environmentally conscious, you can heat the water for a hydronic system with solar power, reducing your home’s carbon footprint.

How much does it cost?

Electric is less expensive to install but more expensive to run, which is why recommendations say to do electric for a single room. One of the reasons hydronic is cheaper to run is because of the variety of options you have for heating the water. You can use anything from gas to wood to solar power depending on a number of variables related to your property.

radiant heating over laminate flooring

For installing hydronic, the materials and equipment cost around $1.75 per square foot, but have higher labor costs which will depend on your area and who you hire. Electric systems cost around $6 per square foot for materials but less on labor. If you’re building a new home, installing radiant heat flooring will be cheaper than it will be to add it to an existing home.

Is radiant heat flooring energy-efficient?

Typically, radiant heat flooring is an energy-efficient solution to heating your home. However, you have to consider your home before you go forward with installation. If your house is poorly insulated to begin with, radiant heat flooring won’t prevent you from rapidly losing heat, which greatly reduces energy efficiency. In this case, consider other ways to insulate your home before changing your heating system.

Each flooring style has different considerations as far as radiant heat is concerned, so look into compatibility with your favorite type before going forward with installation. If you’re building a new house, consider radiant heat flooring as an alternative to the traditional furnace system. If you’ve already got a great home, try radiant heat in a single room, like the bathroom, to experience the magic of having a wonderful heated floor.

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