Adding Radiant Floor Heat to Your Home

Whether you are planning on adding radiant floor heat to your existing home or to a new build, there are several things that you should consider before proceeding. Careful planning is essential if you wish to have a home that is not only more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, but comfortable too.

Adding radiant floor heat to an existing home, especially an older one, entails removal of the top flooring surface. The necessary components for the heating elements are fixed to the subflooring of the home in a specific grid pattern to insure even heat. These subflooring grids are then attached to the specific power supply that will drive the radiant floor heating elements.

Because of this procedure, it is best to plan on adding radiant heat when doing a complete remodel of the home. This allows the contractor the access to what needs to be done without worrying about disrupting normal family life, and gives him latitude to do the job correctly. A typical installation cannot be accomplished in a matter of a few hours. Of course, in a new build this is not an issue. Here the contractor has free reign on the installation, and it can proceed at a more unhurried pace.

These four things need to be taken into consideration when you make the decision to install radiant floor heat in your home:

1. Consider the cost of energy in your geographical location. Rates vary widely throughout the country, and in some areas electricity is much higher than it is in other locations. If this is the case, then consider hydronic radiant heat.

2. Consider the size of the home. If the home is very large in overall square footage, then you may wish to have each large room have its own thermostat to control the heat radiated. If, for example, a room is not used much during the day, but is used as a family room at night, you may want this option.

3. If you also plan on having heated walkways or a heated driveway or patio, then careful planning is needed to determine the actual boiler setup if you decide to use hydronic radiant heat. If the area is large, it may take two boilers to reach the heat levels needed. This is best accomplished by consulting a professional in the radiant heat industry.

4. Consider also the amount of actual insulation in the rest of the home. A radiant heat specialist can determine if more insulation should be applied, or if the home is sufficiently insulated for best results.

The type of flooring is also something that needs to be taken into account when planning an installation of radiant floor heat. If placed over existing flooring, the added installation, including the boards that support the grid system and metal plates often used to help in the dispersal of the radiant heat, can add up to about 5/8" in added floor height, according to one manufacturer. Another type of installation allows the heating grids to be placed under the subflooring. A third type of installation, which would best be reserved for new home construction, consists of burying the heating elements in a concrete slab, and covering this with a thin sheet or concrete or gypsum. This is called a "wet installation."

Because of the complexity of the installation, it is probably not a good project for the weekend do-it-yourselfer. Many things need to be considered relating to the size of the site, the type of installation, and the type of radiant heat floor elements you will decide on. A search on the Internet, or of local home heating specialists, will give you the information you need!