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Installing a Radiant Floor Heating System

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Radiant floor heating is a concept unfamiliar to most, but it can actually be a great alternative to other heating systems. This type of system is powered by electricity and, as the name suggests, the heat radiates from the floor rather than from a radiator or through ductwork. This guide will tell you a little bit about radiant floor heat and how to install it.

The Benefits

Here are some of the benefits of installing a radiant floor heating system:
  • Silence - Central-air systems, and even radiators, tend to make a great deal of noise when in use. Radiant floor heating is completely silent.

  • No cold spots - Radiators and central-air systems can leave some parts of the room cold. Since radiant floor heat emanates from the entire floor, it eliminates this problem.
  • Lower electrical bills - While gas or oil heat may still be cheaper (depending on current prices in your area), radiant floor heat is most likely the cheapest electric heating option, since it distributes heat more evenly.

  • Augmentation - Rather than installing it throughout your entire house, you can use a radiant floor heating system to augment your current heating system. For example, you might have a room that doesn't get quite warm enough with your current heating system. Installing radiant floor heating in that room will solve your problem.

  • Aesthetics - You won't have to look at ugly heat registers or radiators with this type of heat.

  • Cost - This is among the cheapest heating options to install. You won't have to worry about all the time, effort, and money that go into installing ductwork. It also takes less time to install.

  • Warm air rises - With these types of heaters the heat will obviously be coming from the ground. Since warm air rises, you'll be making better use of that heat.


The first thing you need to know is that there are two varieties of systems: cable-type and mat-type. With the former, insulated cables will be laid in the space between the subfloor and the floor. The latter has the cables contained within mats that are installed in much the same way. The mat-type is perfect for square rooms, but more complex layouts will probably require cable-type.

Specific installation instructions will vary depending on the manufacturer; always follow their instructions carefully. However, here's an idea of what installation should entail:
  • A GFCI electrical circuit will need to be installed and dedicated for use solely by your radiant floor heating system. It's best to have an electrician take care of this for you.

  • The floor will need to be measured so you can determine the area that'll need to be heated.

  • If installing before the installation of floors, just follow the manufacture's installation instructions and then install the floor over the heating system.

  • If installing after floors have already been installed, you'll most likely need to rip up the floors before proceeding.
Keeping these things in mind, the installation itself should be pretty simple. You'll have warmth emanating from just below your feet in no time at all!

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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