toasty toes

When it comes to ameni­ties, noth­ing com­pares to ra­di­ant floor heat­ing. Step­ping onto a toasty warm floor dur­ing chilly win­ter morn­ings is an in­stant mood booster. Not only does a ra­di­ant sys­tem warm your soul, it also ef­fi­ciently heats your home. Be­cause

Cabin Living - - Appliance Guide - BY STACY DURR AL­BERT

WHAT IS IT?

Sim­ply put, ra­di­ant floor heat­ing is an un­der-floor heat­ing sys­tem that con­ducts heat through the floor sur­face. It is quite dif­fer­ent from con­ven­tional forced-air sys­tems that con­duct heat (of­ten in­ef­fec­tively) through the air. With ra­di­ant heat, waves of in­frared ra­di­a­tion rise up from the floor, heat­ing up the en­tire room and ev­ery­thing in it. There are no vis­i­ble ra­di­a­tors or ducts, which is an added bonus, and ra­di­ant heat­ing pro­motes clean air.

Elec­tric sys­tem (dry)

There are two main types of ra­di­ant floor heat­ing sys­tems: elec­tric and hy­dronic. Elec­tric is eas­ier and more af­ford­able to in­stall, but will cost you more to op­er­ate. This type of sys­tem may be bet­ter suited for smaller spa­ces, such as bed­rooms or bath­rooms. Elec­tric sys­tems are pow­ered by elec­tric ca­bles or mats that are built into the floor. If you have a cabin with con­ven­tional forced air, this type of ra­di­ant heat­ing may be a great sup­ple­ment.

Hy­dronic (via hot wa­ter tubes)

In­cred­i­bly ef­fi­cient, hy­dronic sys­tems cost less to op­er­ate, and they are ideal for larger spa­ces. Nev­er­the­less, they cost more to in­stall, are more com­pli­cated, and re­quire hot wa­ter from a heater or boiler. The sys­tem con­sists of looped tubes that pump heated wa­ter be­neath the fin­ished floor. The wa­ter can be heated by gas, wood, oil boil­ers, so­lar heaters or any com­bi­na­tion of sources. Hy­dronic sys­tems are known for keep­ing a house at a con­sis­tent, com­fort­able tem­per­a­ture. They may not be ideal for small-scale re­mod­el­ing projects, but hy­dronic sys­tems pro­vide in­cred­i­ble en­ergy sav­ings.

Floor Ma­te­ri­als That Work Best

Ce­ramic tile is a per­fect can­di­date for ra­di­ant floor heat­ing as a great con­duc­tor of heat that can with­stand high tem­per­a­tures. But what about other floor­ing ma­te­ri­als? The good news is that nearly any type of floor­ing can be used, thanks to ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy. Although stone will work best in terms of heat con­duc­tion, linoleum, en­gi­neered wood, car­pet and even solid wood can be used, as long as you follow the man­u­fac­turer’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions care­fully. Car­pet may slow down the trans­fer of heat. Wood can be spared from warp­ing and shrink­ing by us­ing a sys­tem with lower wa­ter tem­per­a­tures and hu­mid­ity that is specif­i­cally de­signed for wood floors.

In­stal­la­tion

There are sev­eral dif­fer­ent in­stal­la­tion meth­ods for ra­di­ant floor heat­ing. “Wet” in­stal­la­tion en­tails em­bed­ding tub­ing or ca­bles into a con­crete slab, or in ce­ment, gyp­sum or another ma­te­rial on top of a sub­floor. This is more common on a ground floor. For sus­pended floors and retrofits, a “sand­wich” method of plac­ing the tub­ing be­tween two lay­ers of ply­wood may work best. Another op­tion is to sim­ply at­tach the tub­ing be­neath a fin­ished floor or sub­floor. There is also a newer op­tion on the mar­ket to­day: a ply­wood sub­floor with pre-cut tub­ing grooves and built-in heat dif­fuser plates.

The in­stal­la­tion method you choose will de­pend on the sys­tem that you se­lect. Be sure to get ex­pert ad­vice be­fore you be­gin. If you are hir­ing an in­staller, choose some­one with plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with ra­di­ant floor heat­ing.

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