By Seve Kale
You know those cold, gray winter days where the thought of leaving the sanctuary of your warm bed is almost unbearable (we know, it’s warming up, but now’s the time to think about how to heat your home, promise!)?
Imagine if, instead of touching down on an ice-cold floor, your toes instead made contact with a warm, cozy surface. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
Radiant flooring, an under-the-floor heating system that conducts heat up through the floor, might just be the perfect option for your new home. To help us sift through the pros and cons of radiant flooring, we’ve enlisted the help of both experts and homeowners:
Because warm air rises, radiant flooring is around a 25-percent more energy-efficient heating solution than a conventional forced-air system. Waves of infrared radiation rise up through the floor, resulting in less heat lost to surrounding surfaces and even heating throughout the area. “There’s no blowing air, no noise, no hot and cold areas — heat goes where you go,” says Ross McCord, brand manager at Warmboard, Inc.
Radiant flooring also improves your indoor air quality because there’s no forced circulation. “You can actually significantly reduce or eliminate instances of asthma while limiting the transmission of airborne viruses,” McCord adds.
Despite all the wonderful things about radiant flooring, there are some disadvantages. “Radiant heating can take a while for you to feel the effects — it is a slow-building system,” says Michael Kenealy, founder and CEO of REDRHINO Flooring. In other words, if you live in an area with rapid temperature changes, your radiant flooring system might be slow to adjust.
“What I tell my clients is that the comfort of a warm floor on a cold day can’t be matched, but it is not a system that you can set and forget about,” says Ryan Thewes, an architect in Nashville, Tenn. “You have to be active with it and on top of what the weather is going to be like in the next few days. Otherwise, it will be your enemy.”
The Nuts and Bolts
Though not impossible, it’s certainly more difficult to retrofit an existing flooring system as opposed to installing a radiant system in a new home. On average, radiant systems can be two to four times more expensive than conventional forced-air systems. “However, if this is a place you plan to live in for a long time, energy savings will start chipping away at the price difference for as long as you’re in the home — I just heard from a guy who doubled the size of his house while cutting his gas bill in half, thanks to (radiant flooring),” McCord says.
Homeowner Mary Maynard, currently living in her second home with radiant flooring, shared her key advice: “It’s very important to hire a very experienced contractor — the systems can be complicated, and you want yours to work correctly.”
If you lay the groundwork, radiant flooring will allow you to reap heating benefits for years to come.
Seve Kale is a contributor to NewHomeSource.