The Pros and Cons of Heated Floors

November 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm Architecture

By Stephen England, Capital Craftsmen

Stepping onto cold tile is not the way to start your day. It’s no wonder so many of us invest in thick slippers and giant mats to alleviate this scenario. But what if we were able to make our homes work better for us and shed the slippers, step barefoot onto toasty warm tile? Radiant floor heating makes that possible.

Radiant floor heating is nothing new, it has actually been around for centuries. The principle is simple: the floor radiates heat to your feet, warming you all over. The most common system for a single room such as a bathroom or kitchen in New York City is an electric one.

Installation

A licensed electrician will work alongside the tile guy to install the system. Thin heating cables merged with mesh mats get installed within the thinset under tile, stone or marble in the walk space (see above). The cables are so thin, that they don’t raise the level of the flooring.  The mat(s) are hooked up and controlled by a dedicated thermostat which needs a dedicated 15- to 20-amp GFCI-protected circuit, and an excuse to lay a new tile floor. It is common practice to do such work when the bathroom is being completely retiled, rather than just the floor but respectfully, clients have budgets so either method is achievable. We recently finished 3 bathrooms at 710 Park Avenue and 2 at 247 West 12th Street. The inclusion of radiant floor heat did not delay our project timelines.

 

Cost

Radiant floor heat is a luxury item but luxury doesn’t have to mean expensive. The equipment required for an 80sf bathroom floor will cost between $800-1200.  Brand and thermostat choice create this range of pricing.  As for daily costs, the energy output equates to about $0.50 to $1.00 per day, if the system runs 24 hours. A more realistic estimate is around about $0.25-$0.35 per day, keeping the system running within a zone of 8 hours a day or morning and evening time zones.

Pros:

  • Radiant heat systems can go up to as high as 95 degrees F.
  • They can retain heat for a long time, even after the power is turned off.
  • New floor height is not affected due to the slim design of the mat and cables.
  • Discreet and luxurious way of heating a floor.
  • Electric savings versus a traditional HVAC or space heater
  • Inexpensive material cost

Cons:

  • Floor heat installation also means new floor tile and some work to the wall for the thermostat.
  • More effective at warming the floor surface “to the touch,” rather than heating the entire room
  • Not as effective under wood, vinyl or carpet floors because these are insulators
  • Expensive to repair (this a very unlikely event)

Is radiant floor heat an option for any type of home?

Absolutely. Electric can be used for an apartment or a house. If we are talking about the entire floor area of a home though, the amount of power it would take to heat so with an electric system is not cost-effective. In this instance, a hydronic system is the way to go. It is a more complex system to install with in-floor PEX tubing distributed with hot water. The radiant tubes can be installed a number of ways; embedded in concrete are best for new homes and under subfloor systems are the best way for renovations.  The question to ask yourself as a New Yorker is; Do I really need heated floors throughout my entire home? The answer is normally no. Kitchens and bathrooms are enough and make the most sense.

 

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