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Buying Radiant Floor Heating

Electric meter and water flow representing Electric versus hydronic heating options

Electric or Hydronic? So what's the best radiant heating for you? FindAnyFloor remains an unbiased source of well researched information. Therefore, we won't recommend one brand or type of heating over another and frankly, with so many unique radiant heating systems available it would be unfair for us to try to do so. We will, however, provide you with some well–known industry standards that are commonly used in the radiant heating decision making process.

Size of Installation vs. Startup Costs

Graphic representation of costs versus size of installation

The initial investment of a boiler is large portion of the project cost in a hydronic floor heating system. For this reason, studies suggest that hydronic floor heating systems are usually best for large, all–over home applications of 5 rooms or more and other large constructions.

For spot heating or heating of small homes less than 5 rooms, it can be more cost effective to use electric radiant floor heating. To give you some perspective, a small bathroom could cost $400–$800 to install electric radiant heating whereas a hydronic system often costs $4,000–$5,000 for the same size room due to the start up cost of a boiler. As the installation area grows larger these costs usually begin to even out. In many, but not all cases of larger installations, hydronic radiant heating can end up being less expensive than electric.

Amount of Heat Needed

Thermometer with high temperature repreenting needed heat

Because hydronic floor heating systems are usually, but not always installed in concrete slabs, they can take several hours to heat up initially and then radiate heat long after being shut off. For this reason, they are often left on for several weeks or months at a time during extremely cold seasons.

Electric systems can often heat your floor in 30–60 minutes because they can often be placed directly under the floor covering instead of being imbedded in concrete. They can then cycle on and off to maintain a constant temperature. You will need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each system to make this decision.

It is best to have a qualified professional estimate the heating load needed to heat the space so that they can determine the most effective radiant floor heating system for you.

Possible Maintenance Required

FindAnyFloor mascott
with tools to represent possible maintenance

Electric powered radiant heating systems have no moving parts therefore, there is no maintenance required. In the event that your electric radiant heating was to stop working, a professional can often isolate the problem and replace just the problem section rather than the entire system.

A hydronic system operates with moving values and manifolds therefore you have to consider the possibility of one of these moving parts malfunctioning. Leaks can be difficult to isolate but a professional can usually repair the system. Thankfully, the tubing used nowadays in hydronic floor heating systems is made of high quality, leak–resistant PEX tubing. These tubes will not get brittle over time thus reducing needed repairs when compared to tubing used in the past.

Recommendation: Ask your installer for a copy of the layout of the radiant heating tubing or cables used in the installation in case you need to locate a section of the floor for repair at a later date.

Source of Heat and Cost of Operating

There is nothing like throwing a few logs in the wood burner and having your hydronic radiant heating system warm you free of charge all night. Let's face it; electricity is not cheap so many of us are reaching out for other ways to replace it. Many hydronic systems can operate off solar power or wood burners rather than using heat generated by electricity. The downside is that these systems are also commonly supplemented with the burning of gas or oil (especially those that are solar powered) during the day. Wood isn't exactly free either unless you are the one chopping down the trees. Taking all factors into consideration, there are a number of arguments for both sides as to which type of radiant heating costs less to operate.

Is it Compatible with your Floor Covering?

Is your flooring type campatable with
the radiant floor heating system you wamt ot install? Check with the manufacturer first.

Be sure that you check with the manufacturer of the radiant heating product as well as the floor covering manufacturer to ensure that you don't void your warranties or damage your heating system or floor covering. Because radiant floor heating installations should be carefully coordinated with the purchase and installation of the floor covering, FindAnyFloor recommends consulting with a professional installer that has experience in this field. To find a professional floor installer near you, search by your zip code using the locator tool at the top of this page.