The energy costs associated with forced-air systems can make them too expensive too run at a truly comfortable temperature in the winter. These costs are further exacerbated by the very nature of these systems – energy can be lost, for example, when heated air escapes through leaks in the ducts before it’s ever had a chance to warm up your home. The good news is that there is another option – underfloor heating has become very popular recently.
What is underfloor heating?
There are two major kinds of under floor heating currently available – they are electric and hydronic heating. Both are installed beneath your home’s floors and work by radiating heat upwards.
How does electric heating work?
Basically, it consists of coils that are installed beneath the floor. In many cases, they’re first embedded in a mat, which is then laid out on the sub floor and your flooring material (such as tiles or carpet) is installed over the top. Electricity is run through the coils, which causes them to heat up. This heat is transferred to the flooring in the room above and it dissipates into the space. A sensor on or near the floor helps the system to maintain a set temperature.
How efficient is electric heating?
These systems can be an efficient way to heat a small part of your home, which makes it a great choice for areas of your home where you tend to go barefoot (such as the bathroom). Some systems operate on a timer, which means they’re only on for a set amount of time before turning off. Others use a thermostat and a floor sensor, which are activated whenever the floor drops below a certain temperature. Thermostats allow you to program the system to your needs.
How does hydronic heating work?
Tubes or small pipes laid beneath the floor are used to circulate heated water around the home. Generally speaking, the pipes are laid in place and the concrete slab is poured directly over the top. As water flows through the system, the heat is released into the room above. You have a number of energy options for heating the water, from gas-fired boilers to solar water heaters, ensuring that you can choose one that meets your needs and your home’s limitations.
How efficient is hydronic heating?
These systems can be one of the most efficient ways to heat your home, as its very nature limits the amount of energy that can be wasted. Several other factors also contribute to the efficiency of these systems – since the heat comes from the floor, it can keep you comfortably warm on a lower set temperature than would be required from a traditional fan-forced heater. The efficiency can be further improved with careful design and adequate insulation.
What underfloor heating option should I choose?
The best option depends on what you want to accomplish. Electric heating can be a good choice if you’re supplementing an existing system, you’re adding it to a pre-existing home, the area you want to heat is relatively small, or cold floors are a major source of dissatisfaction. Hydronic heating, on the other hand, can be a good choice if you want to heat your entire home, you’re building a new home or you don’t mind significant renovations, and you want to reduce your bills.