Floor heating really is one of the most comfortable and energy efficient ways to heat a space. Yet most people simply want the chill taken out of their floors. This simple fact has driven tremendous growth in the last decade, leading to hundreds of distribution points and thousands of trained installers.
There are two primary ways to heat a floor – with electric cables or hot water tubing. Both types can be installed above or below the floor, using electric mats or radiant tubing. Radiant systems will warm just about any type of flooring to provide all the heat needed for a space or simply to take the chill out.
Hot water systems are generally installed to heat the whole home or possibly just one level of the house. They are more complicated than electric systems, but can be heated with a variety of energy sources. Tubing is installed in concrete slabs or thin slabs, between nailers over framed floors, or attached to the underside of a subfloor using plates or conductive graphite panels. Just about any type of floor covering can be installed over hydronic systems.
Electric floor heating is usually installed in smaller areas like bathrooms, kitchens, additions, or part of a basement. They’re very simple, requiring only electric cables and a thermostat. They’re also thin and easily worked into the construction process without too much complexity. The simplicity of electric systems has helped make them very popular.
The most popular electric systems (mat or cable) are installed in mortar, above a slab or subfloor. Specially designed mats can also be attached to the underside of a subfloor between the joists, similar to a hydronic system. This is the perfect solution for a cold floor that the homeowner doesn’t want to replace.
The most popular radiant floor coverings are tile and stone, but again, nearly any type of flooring will work. For tile and stone, the mats or cables are first embedded in thin-set or self-leveling mortar, and then tile is applied.
Whatever your situation, take the time to learn the best ways of installing the heating system with all of the other construction materials involved. Most national brands offer training programs, as well as detailed installation manuals, DVDs, and toll-free lines to answer any questions. People really like warm radiant floors and they’ll continue looking for professionals to help them get what they want.