You don’t have to live in a region with punishing winters to experience the benefits of the even, reliable warmth of an underfloor heating system.
If you do happen to reside in a place where ice and snow are seasonal norms, you may be even more curious about what it takes to install in-floor heating in your home.
In-floor heating systems, also known as underfloor heating (UFH), are popular and practical for almost any dwelling, but there are some things to consider before listing your old heater on eBay.
What Is In-Floor Heating?
In-floor heating is a system of tubing and wires that are installed on top of the subfloor and covered in flowable concrete. Once installation is complete, traditional flooring materials are laid on top of the heating system.
UFH can be used anywhere in the home, including the garage or basement. Once the system is operational, water or electricity (depending on your system) flows under the floor.
The ambient heat rising from the floor maintains even warmth throughout the room. It’s possible you could look as cool as these two if you had heated hardwood floors in your home:
Is Underfloor Heating Installation Worth the Cost?
There are several advantages to using in-floor heating as a primary heat source in your home.
The most common reason people choose to install in-floor heating is to enjoy the pleasure of a warm floor. Unless you like putting your bare feet on ice in the morning, you’ll probably agree that heated hardwood floors are a definite advantage.
Other benefits of in-floor heating include:
- Improved ambient heat — no more cold spots in the room
- No ducts or filters to maintain
- Allergy-free — no dust or other allergens blowing through vents
- Energy-efficient heating that can reduce your energy bills by a significant amount
The initial costs of underfloor heating installation can seem high, but the savings in energy bills, and maintenance costs add up quickly.
New Build or Retrofit?
Installing a radiant floor heating system is easier in new construction than in an existing home. Because the system is placed between the sub-floor and finish flooring material, taking out all of the flooring in a room or an entire room can be cost-prohibitive.
How you live in the home is worth considering when you’re thinking about a heating system. Underfloor heating systems are meant to maintain a consistent temperature over a long period. For example, having heated hardwood floors in a vacation home that sits empty most of the year is not a practical choice.
This is because In-floor heating doesn’t warm a room as quickly as a traditional HVAC system. If a room sits empty for weeks at a time with the heat turned off, you may be in for a long, cold wait while the system evenly distributes warmth around the floor.
For many homeowners, however, a consistently warmed home that is reliably comfortable 24/7 fits the bill.
Electric or Hydronic?
The two most commonly used in-floor heating systems are electronic and hydronic. Electric systems are usually reserved for single-room systems. Hydronic systems pump hot water through the pipes installed on top of the subfloor.
Homeowners who want to install in-floor heating systems in an entire house typically select the hydronic option. Discussing flooring preferences and other design plans with your UFH installation experts will help you make the best choice for your home.
There’s no doubt that in-floor heating is a luxury. Just think of how regal you’ll feel strolling around your home with bare feet and zero fears of frostbitten toes.
Even better, underfloor systems are good for the environment. One way this method of heating saves energy is by eliminating heat loss.
Not only do forced-air heaters lose warmth in the distribution system, but they also distribute allergens, essentially polluting the indoor environment. Radiant heating from an in-floor system requires less energy to keep your home warm and improves indoor air quality.
You can’t use natural wood or carpet flooring if you want to install in-floor heating, right? Wrong, my friend. We’re not sure where the idea that underfloor heating isn’t appropriate for wood or carpet floors came from, but we’re happy to help correct that misconception.
Underfloor heating can be used with:
- Bamboo and conventional hardwoods
- Engineered wood
In-floor heating is even compatible with concrete floors. The main thing to consider is the cost of the flooring if you decide to replace an in-floor system in the future.
Pro-Tip: Increase your new home’s green rating even more by using environmentally friendly bamboo or eucalyptus floors.
Install in-floor heating in your driveway if you never want to have to shovel it again. Yes, UFH systems can be used outdoors, too.
Warmed sidewalks and asphalt reduce maintenance costs and increase safety around your home or business. Inside or outside, you can set your in-floor system to heat only when you need it.
Install In-Floor Heating, and Your House Will Feel Like a Warm Hug
Okay, your house won’t really hug you, but efficient heating and lower energy bills can feel like a warm embrace.
Depending on the temperatures where you live, underfloor heating may not completely replace a traditional heating system. But it does offer many advantages and could increase your home’s value.
If you’re building a new home or upgrading old worn-out floors anyway, don’t complete the job without consulting with an in-floor heating expert. You may regret it every morning when your warm feet hit that cold floor.
About the Author
Jen is your go-to guru for crafting a cozy, green cocoon. 🪴 Her dive into sustainable building wasn’t just about saving the planet—it started as a mission to make family movie nights eco-friendly (and to ensure the popcorn was the only thing getting heated!). With a knack for breaking down the jargon, Jen turns eco-lingo into everyday language. Swing by the Green Living blog for a mix of earth-loving advice and home improvement hacks. Whether you’re just dipping your toes into green waters or you’ve been swimming in the deep end of DIY projects, Jen’s here to guide, giggle, and remind you that every eco-choice is a step towards a planet that thanks you… and maybe even sends a rainbow your way! 🌈