All heating systems have a single purpose — to make the inside of your home comfortably warm. Forced hot air systems are the most common heating systems in America, but they're not always your greenest option, because they tend to blow dust, allergens and hot air around and produce uneven, noisy heat that can waste energy. An innovative and alternative heating method is radiant floor heating, which brings the floor of your home up to a warm temperature (typically 75°-85°) so you experience silent, even, and comfortable warmth.
Radiant floor heating is a wonderfully efficient heat-distribution system that takes advantage of the whole floor to heat the home, as apposed to forced air coming out of one small vent and trying to heat a huge space.
Comfort and efficiency are two reasons why new homeowners like radiant floor systems. The aesthetic quality is another reason homeowners love this system. The heating system remains hidden beneath the floor so there are no vents or radiators in sight. With radiant floor heating, it's possible to have a beautiful floor and barefoot comfort. This can be a huge advantage when it comes to interior design.
There are two main radiant flooring systems that can be applied to a home — electric and hydronic radiant floors.
Running hot water beneath the floor — or hydronics — is becoming more popular in residential homes thanks to flexible plastic tubing called "PEX" — polyurethane, durable tubing that has a lifespan of more than 100 years. It snakes underneath the floor and uses the whole floor as a heat-distribution system.
Note: Since a radiant floor system is different from a traditional centralized heating system, your builder will need to hire specialized contractors with experience in this area.
Electric Or Hydronic Floor Heating, What's Best For You?
For spot warming or sole source heating of a portion of your house, it is more practical to use electric radiant. For example, you can expect to spend between $400 and $800 to install an electric system to warm a small bathroom. An equivalent hydronic system would cost between $4,000 and $5,000, because it requires a boiler to operate.
If you plan on using radiant floor heating as the source heating your entire home than hydronic radiant heating is a better option for you than electric. However, even if you plan on heating your whole house and live in a climate where you need only a few hours of heat in the morning and at night then the electric system will be a better, more economical choice.
Things to consider before choosing electric or hydronic floor heating: