Radiant Floor Heating -- Is It Worth the Cost?

Posted by Laura Firszt | Jan 13, 2015
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Imagine being warm even on the coldest winter days ... from your feet on up! If toasty tootsies are the stuff that your January dreams are made of, you may have thought longingly about installing underfloor heating in your home, only to be put off by the idea of its price tag. Is radiant floor heat worth the cost? Take a level-headed look at its expenses and advantages so you can make an informed decision.

Difficulty Retrofitting

The major expense that radiant floor heating entails is the actual cost of installation. In large part, this is due to the difficulty involved in retrofitting. It's impossible to get around the fact that underfloor heating does go ... well ... under the floor. This is not a problem if you are already planning an upgrade that includes replacement of your current flooring or if you are about to build a new home. Otherwise, you may well decide that the expense and the bother of tearing up a perfectly good floor are not worth it. Should that be the case, installing radiant wall panels might be a better option for you.

Factors Influencing Installation Costs

The actual installation of radiant floor heating will cost you about $6-15 per square foot. Price varies according to which type of system you choose -- hydronic or electric. Hydronic hot water-powered heating is more expensive to install, although it will cost slightly less to operate. Conversely, installing radiant heat powered by electric wiring is simpler and cheaper, but your future operating costs will work out somewhat higher. Installation cost also depends on whether the heating system is to be built into new construction or added to an existing home.

Another factor that should be taken into account is that in addition to your underfloor heating, you will have to lay out the cash for installation of a separate cooling system for the warmer months.

Flooring Expenses

When you review your budget, consider, too, the cost of laying new flooring once the radiant floor heating system itself has been installed. Underfloor heating usually functions best with flooring types that have excellent heat conduction properties -- that is, natural stone, ceramic or porcelain tile, and concrete. Other materials which may be more problematic include hardwood (which can shrink and expand due to the changes in temperature involved -- although an experienced contractor should know how to work around this problem), plastic laminate and linoleum (which are overly heat sensitive), or carpet (which has two drawbacks -- its insulating properties impede heat circulation and in the case of synthetic carpeting, there is an increased possibility of off-gassing).

Advantages of Radiant Floor Heating

With all that being said, underfloor heating does have a large number of advantages. This method gives off a desirable kind of heat -- quiet, even, and comfortable, which warms from the lower part of the room (where people actually hang out) upwards. It is both less drying to the home's atmosphere and less irritating to those who suffer from allergies and other respiratory problems. Perhaps most important of all, a radiant floor system is eco-friendly. It heats extremely efficiently, reducing energy consumption and allowing you to feel cozier at a lower temperature. You are able to choose to heat your whole home or an individual room, as you please. Your winter heating bills are likely to be lowered by as much as 25-50 percent. Newly popular "green" devices such as programmable thermostats and solar panels are easy to integrate with the system.

And don't discount the luxury of wiggling your toes on a deliciously warm floor no matter how frosty the weather may be.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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