No one denies that electric floor heating is comfortable, but some of your potential customers may be under the mistaken impression that installing a floor heating system will result in them shouldering significant costs in the future -- especially when it comes to electricity bills.

The truth is that floor heating is already an inherently energy-efficient heating system compared to more traditional methods like central air. 

Forced-air systems work by heating the air in a room, which then transfers some degree of heat to the other items in the room via convection (a relatively ineffective means of heating with significant energy loss). On the other hand, underfloor heating provides radiant heat to warm the people and objects in the room directly, and efficiently, through radiant heat. 

Next, consider the heat distribution process between these two heating methods. Electric floor heating warms up the room faster because there is even heat distribution in the entire room. However, there is uneven heat distribution for forced-air systems since hot air has to leave the vents and spread in the room before getting to you. There is so much wastage during that process, and it also takes longer, meaning the energy consumption will go up.

So, not only is radiant floor heating inherently energy efficient, but you, or the homeowner, can take actionable steps to improve that energy efficiency even more.  

 

Limiting Home Heat Loss

The first step for improving almost any heating system’s efficiency is to limit heat loss from the building. Heat loss occurs when heat moves from inside the house to the outside. Unsurprisingly, the parts of the house that are the closest to the outside, such as the doors, windows and roof, are often the most responsible for heat loss. 

Before installing any heating system, It is imperative to know the building's heat loss. The lower it is, the less powerful the heating system that is needed. For example, a home's heat loss determines whether floor heating alone is enough for primary heat or whether the floor heating system will be supplemental to the forced-air system. 

Energy consumption makes up a significant percentage of a home's running cost. It would be best if you considered such nuances during construction or renovation.

 

Pro-Tip: Reducing Heat Loss

The heating system must have a stronger output to counter the heat loss. To ensure this principle serves your home correctly, you need to:

  • Reduce conduction losses through insulation
  • Reduce air leakage
  • Use efficient heating methods such as electric floor heating.

Using an Insulating Underlayment over Cement

The subfloor and the flooring you intend to use for your project will determine whether you need an insulating underlayment or not.

An insulating underlayment may not be required when installing on top of a wood subfloor. But it is almost always necessary when installing on top of a cement slab. 

When you put heating cables directly on top of cement, the slab, which has a significant thermal mass, will absorb a huge amount of the heat from the radiant wire. This process is called “heat sink” and it means that there is less available energy for the heating system to transfer via radiation to the solid objects in the room. It also makes heating the floor take longer.

To insulate the slab, install an underlayment with a high r-value (a measure of heat resistance) on top of it. An insulating underlayment creates a thermal break below the heating elements that helps ensure most of the energy goes where it’s needed (into the home).

 

Use a Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat basically automates the underfloor heating system. You can program it to turn on when needed, turn off when the room has been heated well and adjust the room temperature. If we are going to install electric heated floors and still save on energy and money, then it is only practical to control the system efficiently. 

Contrary to popular belief, a thermostat does not speed up the heating process. Based on the instructions it is fed, it will either start or stop the heating depending on the room temperature threshold that it’s set to. 

You can also consider a smart thermostat, which can enable even more advanced settings via geo-fencing. Geo-fencing in heating works by coordinating the homeowner’s location (based on the smart device’s location) with the heating system. It records the homeowner's behavior and then develops a schedule to heat the floor only when they are home. For example, the thermostat can be set to start heating the floor before they get home. By the time they get there, the house is at the right temperature for their liking. 

Smart thermostats depend on WiFi connectivity to control them remotely using their smartphone apps. During installation, it should be strategically placed at a point with strong connectivity. 

Make sure to do your due diligence before installing a thermostat to ascertain if it is the perfect fit for the home and if it will work with the electric floor heating system you are planning to install. 

 

Pro-Tip: Don’t Forget the Floor Sensor!

One thing that often gets overlooked is that electric floor heating thermostats can usually operate the system based on the room temperature (using sensors in the thermostat itself) or the floor temperature (using a separate floor sensor that is connected to the thermostat). Typically, the floor sensor will be installed at the same time as the heating elements and it will be placed equidistant from two parallel runs of the heating cable to get the most accurate reading possible. Controlling the system with the floor temperature instead of the room temperature is usually a more energy-efficient option since it removes a lot of the other variables (like heat loss) that can affect room temperature.

 

Get a Geo-Targeted Floor Heating Design

Heating needs vary depending on the geographical region. For example, a home in Miami will have different heating needs than a house in Detroit. For this reason, some engineers do not work with a one-size-fits-all technique on all the electric floor heating projects. The right heating system scales the heat level to match the region's requirements, considering factors like winter temperatures.

Also, the in-floor heating system is flexible enough to conform to different designs. The engineers study the weather data of your area and then adjust the spacing of the heating elements. They consider proximity because having the cables too close can cause overheating. Typically, the colder the region, the smaller the spacing. The standard spacing between the runs of cables is 3 inches, which normally translates to about 15 watts per square foot heat output. 

These measurements are customizable to suit your region. For example, winters in California are relatively mild, so the standard 15 watts per square foot heat output can be reduced and the spacing increased, which will mean reduced operating costs and material costs.

 

Utilize Spot Heating

Simply put, spot heating refers to directing heat to a targeted area. 

Spot heating means only heating the areas in a room that get the most foot traffic. People walk more in specific areas of the house than others. For example, the mid-section of the hallway is always over-utilized while no one ever walks on the far side close to the wall. What if you could install in-floor heaters only where people frequently step on?

Some of the areas that could use spot heating within the home are:

  • The area in front of the kitchen sink 
  • Around the shower
  • The center of a living room
  • In front of the kitchen stove

You will still enjoy the comfort and warmth of full coverage heating in the most cost-efficient way.

As you can see, an electric underfloor heating system is a very energy-efficient option for home heating. The general feeling that they are too expensive in terms of operating costs is understandable because most people have not explored this possibility. However, with the proper energy-efficient tips covered above, it is evident that homeowners can enjoy not only the comfort of electric floor heating, but also the cost savings and environmental benefits of it too.