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Say Goodbye to Cold Floors in Winter with Radiant Heating
On a cold morning, just the thought of having your feet hit a cold floor makes you want to stay in bed! With radiant floor heat, even your dog will want to curl up on the bare floor rather than in your bed. Radiant heat has benefits when compared with traditional convection heat. But what is it and how does it work?
Radiant heat elements in the floor, wall or ceiling warm the people and objects in the room rather than directly heating the air. You cannot see radiant heat energy but you can certainly feel it, and it just makes you feel more comfortable and cozy. It works like sunshine. When you're outside on a sunny day, you may feel comfortable in short sleeves even if the air temperature is only 60 degrees. This is because of the radiant warmth from the sun. Radiant heat lets you feel warm at a lower air temperature than conventional forced-air heat. Plus, because there is no blower as with forced-air heat, there are no drafts.
It is estimated that radiant heat is not only about 30% more efficient than conventional forced-air systems, but provides a more even and continuous level of warmth. Here's why:
- With radiant heating, the heating elements are near you in the floor or walls. No ductwork is needed as part of the delivery system, and ducts are where some heat is lost.
- Since radiant heating systems do not use blowers or fans, your environment stays quieter.
- With radiant systems, heat stays near the floor where you are, and is not collecting near the ceiling.
- Radiant systems easily provide room-by-room temperature control, or multiple separate zones, allowing more heat where you want it most.
Besides saving energy, here are some other benefits of radiant heat:
- Health benefits: European studies indicate that dust mite populations are reduced as much as 90% in radiant heated homes.
- No humidification needed: Unlike hot air systems, radiant heat will not dry out your breathing passages. Humidification is unnecessary with radiant heat because it does not alter the air moisture content.
- Environmentally friendly: Radiant systems can run off of a variety of energy sources (gas, oil, wood, etc.), and can easily be interfaced to solar, geothermal, and other renewable energy sources. [For more information on environmentally-friendly systems, check out our LEED story.]
- Flexibility: Radiant floor heating systems can be installed under any type of flooring, including wood, tile, laminate, concrete and carpet. Beautiful wood, marble or tile floors are even more enjoyable because they are now warm, and don't need to be covered up with rugs to shield bare feet from a cold floor.
- New construction or remodel: Radiant heating can be customized for rooms of any shape or size, and can convert cold, damp areas into warm living space. Add radiant floor heat in large lower-level rooms or basements that are almost uninhabitable during winter months, or a garage space being converted into living space. It works really well in a concrete slab, too.
There are many types of radiant heating systems.
- Under the floor or in the walls: These are called low-temperature systems. Since their heating surface is much larger, a much lower temperature is required to achieve the same level of heat transfer.
- Radiant heating mats: These are ideal for spot heating, like shower floors or benches, and are safe for wet location installations.
- Radiant heating room panels: These can be hung on the wall (like artwork) and typically are glass or mirrored, and come in a variety of colors and sizes.
- Overhead panels: These have a lot higher surface temperatures, and can be found in production and warehousing facilities or sports arenas. They boast the quickest response time of any heating technology.
- Radiant heat can be used outdoors as well. In cold climates, some folks have heated driveways or roofs so they don't need to shovel snow or worry about the snow pack causing the roof to collapse.
There are two basic ways to supply radiant heat in floors or walls: hot water or electricity. Electric radiant, which uses zig-zag loops of resistance wire, is generally retrofitted to a single room, such as a bathroom, kitchen, or added room, such as a converted garage. It can be used for spot installations and operate along with traditional forced-air heating systems used in the rest of the house. Hot-water "hydronic" systems circulate water from a boiler or water heater through loops of 1/2-inch flexible plastic tubing. Hydronic systems are better suited for whole-house (rather than spot) installations.
What About Air-Conditioning?
Keep in mind, no matter what radiant heating system you use, you'll still need a separate air-conditioning system for cooling. Radiant cooling cannot be used in Tennessee because our high humidity would cause excessive condensation (not a problem for heating systems). That means that although radiant heat does not use ductwork, registers or vents for heat delivery, you'll likely still need these for a cooling system.
But with radiant heat, you can say goodbye to cold floors in winter! Radiant heating can be a comfortable, efficient, and reliable heating choice.