If you’ve been following along you know that we’ve finally got some walls up in this place & things are progressing. But we realized that we didn’t take any real time to fill you in on all the important stuff that happened behind the walls. So today we’re taking you back to talk about radiant heating. You might remember that earlier this year, Kes & I took some time off from our day jobs to work on installing our radiant heating system. For those of you that aren’t sure what radiant heating is really all about, I thought I’d break it down into a few short points. So here we go…
1. There are different types:
There are 2 basic types of radiant systems: electric and hydronic. Electric radiant uses zigzagging loops of resistance wire that are usually pre-attached to mats which allows for easy installation. The heat mats are then installed over the subfloor, typically in a bed of thin-set mortar. Electric radiant systems tend to be easier to install, but with rising hydro costs, these systems are usually limited to small areas like bathrooms or kitchens & used as a supplemental heat source. Hydronic radiant systems, on the other hand are generally larger systems designed to heat an entire house. In hydronic radiant, water is circulated through loops of PEX tubing beneath the floors & heated to between 35 and 50 degrees Celsius by a boiler (that’s about 100 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for all our Amerifriends). There are various ways that the pex can be installed: over an existing concrete slab in cement, embedded within a slab in specially designed subfloor panels that contain channels for the tubing to fit into, or stapled underneath the sub-flooring (how we installed ours).
2. It’s quiet
Have you ever found yourself adjusting your tv volume because the furnace kicked in & it sounds like you’re driving on the highway with the windows down? Or had to think twice about whether those clanks, tinks & groans you heard were from your radiator or some kind of paranormal activity? Well the good news is that by comparison, radiant floors are virtually silent. The bad news: if you’re still hearing those wooshes, clanks & groans, you might want to call in an exorcist.
3. It’s energy efficient (often more so than conventional forced air systems)
A radiant heat system by design is a much more effective method to distribute heat. Forced-air systems can efficiently heat the air, but they lose efficiency when you factor in distributing it throughout the house. Much of the energy ends up trapped in the air higher up in the room. We’ve all seen those “92% efficiency” ratings on a forced-air furnace. But all that really means is the furnace itself is efficient. It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the method used to distribute the warmed air. Radiant heat systems can actually be as much as 30-40% more efficient than forced-air systems. Why the difference? Radiant heat warms the solid objects in the room which causes the air in the room to heat up as it comes in contact with those warmed objects. And because objects tend to hold heat longer than the air does, the system doesn’t need to work as hard.
4. It provides comfortable, even heat
In a conventional forced-air heating system, air blows out of the registers at well over 45 degrees Celsius and then it quickly rises to the top of the room where it sheds heat and then drops back down as it cools. This often causes the air in the room to have uncomfortably uneven temperatures. If you’ve ever been in a room where you felt a little warm under the collar, but your toes were freezing, you know what I’m talking about. Also because forced air registers tend to be located around the perimeter of the room you often end up with those areas of the feeling warmer than the rest. With radiant heat systems, on the other hand, your floors might reach 30 degrees tops on a really cold day, but as the warm air rises, it does so evenly over the entire floor. The result is more of the heat stays near the ground – where you are – instead of getting trapped up above your head!
5. DIY is an option
When we first started looking into the idea of having a hydronic radiant heating system and began inquiring on the cost, we had a major case of sticker shock! Every initial conversation we had with suppliers had us looking at an investment starting at upwards of $40-60K which is WAY beyond our budget. But if you know Kes, you know he isn’t one to give up on an idea that easily when he has his mind set on something. After many Google searches & Youtube tutorials we decided that installing a radiant system is not outside the realm of our capabilities. Which of course meant, that we immediately set out to find a supplier that could provide us with everything we needed. We happened across a supplier in Syracuse that builds radiant systems with a DIY install in mind and then ships the system & all the materials to you – and the best part – all at less than a THIRD of what it would have cost us to have it installed!
Now, having completed the first phase of our radiant install I can say with certainty that it IS INDEED a lot of work. But what it is not, is difficult work. Like anything else, stuff that is labour intensive always comes at a heavy price tag. But if you’re willing to put in the time and a little elbow grease, DIY is an option for having a radiant in-floor heating system.
Have you ever lived anywhere that had radiant heating? Is it something you would ever consider for your home? Let us know in the comments!