Radiant Floor Heating (RFH) systems are basically heating systems that are installed beneath the home’s floors to keep them warm, while allowing the interiors imbibe and radiate the warmth in a uniform manner. Radiant floor heating is quite energy-efficient when compared to conventional heating systems, and is easily able to bring down heating costs by 30 – 50 %, depending on the type of heating.
There are different types of radiant floors: electric radiant floors, hydronic radiant floors, as well as radiant air floors (though not widely in use).
Electric Radiant Floors
Radiant floor heat, in this case, is generated by warming up a concrete mass (thick or thin) beneath the sub-floor by using electricity. The surface is usually heated by drawing electricity during the off-peak hours to save up on energy costs. Concrete surfaces are capable of retaining heat anywhere from 8 to 10 hours without any additional power input.
Hydronic Radiant Floors
These liquid-based radiant floor heating systems are, in fact, more popular and cost-effective than the other types. Hot water is circulated through a series of tubes laid beneath the floor. Valves, pumps and thermostats along the systems help regulate the flow of water. The main advantage of hydronic radiant floors is that almost any energy source can be used to heat the water. Geothermal and solar energy, wherever available, can be tapped to run these systems.
Radiant Floor Installations
There are two types of floor installations commonly used to retain and transmit radiant floor heat – “Wet” and “Dry.”
• Wet installation typically involves using a thick or thin concrete slab fitted with electrical cables or tubes beneath the sub-floor to store and radiate heat from different sources. Concrete slabs, though can retain heat for a longer time, do not respond instantly to thermostat settings.
• Dry installation, on the other hand, works to heat up an empty space beneath the sub-floor using cables or tubes. These installations typically operate at higher temperatures as they aim to heat a “sandwiched” air space. Dry installations may also involve heat reflectors that work to direct the generated heat towards the floors. Dry installations are easier to complete, cost-effective, and are ideal for heating vast floor spaces.
The energy-efficient comfort of radiant floor heat is best experienced when ceramic tiles cover the surface of the floor. While radiant floor heating systems are suitable for all types of flooring, with or without carpets, insulation of any form may reduce their effectiveness. Wooden floors may need special treatment to withstand heat generated by the RFH systems.