The nuts and bolts of underfloor heating


Discovering how underfloor heating may be a natural mood enhancer…

For many of us, stepping out of the shower onto a cold, hard bathroom floor is a reality faced each day. We huddle in our towels and curse the cold weather, wishing that our heat would kick on to warm us. A method of heating exists to solve this predicament: under floor heating. Used by the ancient Romans, under floor radiant heat can meet the heating needs of any home, supplying even, efficient warmth that allows improved comfort within all rooms of the home (bathroom included).

The most common underfloor heating system installed is hydronic, or wet. A network of special tubing is installed in a concrete foundation, or a thin layer of concrete, gypsum, or other material on top of the subfloor. Plastic water pipe, usually polyurethane or PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is used. Hot water, usually at a temperature of ninety to one hundred-thirty degrees Fahrenheit, is circulated through the tubing, allowing the warmth from the hot water to radiate into the room. Under floor heating is a wonderful method for those with existing alternative energy sources to consider, as the hot water from solar collectors, wood or corn stoves, and heat pumps can be used in the tubing.

Electric, or dry, radiant heat is the other method of underfloor heating. Electric systems feature mats of electrically conductive plastic, and although they offer many of the same benefits as hydronic floor heating, they use more electricity, and are less cost-efficient long term. While ceramic tile is the most commonly used floor covering for underfloor heat, because it heats well and has a high heat capacity, most floor coverings can be used, like wood, carpet, or even vinyl.

As the warmth circulates throughout the flooring, it rises upward, actually heating the floor that you stand upon. Radiant heat is extremely comfortable because like the sun, it heats objects instead of air. The floors, not the ceilings, are the warmest part of the room, which means warm, cozy feet and a cool head. Because each individual room has its own tubing, different areas of the home can be set to different temperatures. Heat is evenly distributed across a room, and because the heater is below the floor, there is no radiator or appliance to detract from the room decoration. The system is unobtrusive and extremely quiet, and there are no hot, dangerous surfaces for children or pets to burn themselves on. Allergy sufferers find relief with underfloor heating because there are no drafts and no air movement to spread dust and germs throughout a home.

Decreasing installation costs due to competition within the market, as well as the numerous advantages of underfloor heating, are attracting many to consider radiant floor heat for their homes. These systems can actually be retrofitted into existing homes, and installed in new construction as well. Once installed, the underfloor heating loops are basically maintenance free, and can last up to one hundred years. The versatility and reliability of underfloor heating make it a leading choice for those who want to stay warm, and never worry about cold feet again.

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