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Radiant Floor Heating Types





Mother and Child reading comfortably on the floor

There are three main types of radiant floor heating systems: electric, hydronic, and air–heated. Of the three types, electric and hydronic radiant systems are much more popular then air–heated systems because they are more efficient in most cases. Read on to learn more about the different types of radiant floor heating in use today.

Electric Radiant Floor Heating

Installation of electric radiant floor heating

There are many different types of electric radiant floor heating systems that are installed in a number of different ways. Options span from rolled cables that are laid out and held in place by braces to pre–made mats, mesh, or film with of electric wiring or other conductive materials. These systems can be imbedded in cement, installed under the subfloor, or even installed directly under the floor covering depending on the manufacturer's recommendations. Once the system is turned on, electricity flows through the floor, creating heat that radiates upward.

Electric floor heating systems can be used to simply warm the floor enough so that it is not cold underfoot, or can be used to heat entire rooms or homes depending on the heat output of the system. Electric radiant floor systems are easily zoned using a thermostat and require no maintenance as they have no moving parts. In addition, electric radiant heating is becoming a popular choice for melting snow and ice on driveways and sidewalks rather than shoveling or sprinkling harmful salts and chemicals.

Tip: Some types of electric floors also create what is known as Far Infrared heat which penetrates our body, warming beneath the surface.

Demand for electric radiant heating is continually rising due to the low start–up cost of most electric heating systems.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating

Cut-away illustration of a hydronic radiant floor heating system

In a hydronic floor heating system (also called a liquid floor heating system) water is heated and then pumped through tubing that has been installed in one of several ways. One of the top advantages of using a hydronic floor heating system is that it can be heated using several different sources: oil, gas, or wood–fired boilers, solar water heaters, or a combination of these systems.

Hydronic floor heating systems can be controlled with a thermostat. Though whole–house heating is most common with these systems, they can be designed to heat zoned areas of the home using a system of values and pumps.

You may have heard stories of entire floors being ripped up in the past to repair hydronic floor heating systems. Thankfully, most tubing used nowadays in hydronic floor heating systems is made of cross–linked polyethylene called PEX tubing. These tubes are leak resistant and will not become brittle over time thus greatly reducing the possibility of needed repairs when compared to tubing of the past.

Tip: Because proper installation is crucial to the effectiveness of a hydronic radiant floor heating system, a professional installation is recommended. To find a floor installer in your area, simply search by your zip code using the tool at the top of this page.

Air–Heated Radiant Floor Heating

This type of radiant floor heating is not considered very efficient. Hot air is heated by a furnace and then pumped through the floor. Because air cannot hold much heat, hydronic or electric systems are more preferred. When air–heated systems are used, they can be combined with solar air systems to reduce the daytime energy load. The drawback of these systems is that they are often supplemented with conventional furnaces during the night.

To learn more about the different types of radiant heating visit FindAnyFloor's sections on Buying Radiant Floor Heating and Radiant Heating Installation Basics.