Radiant Floor Heating Solutions
Introduction of Heated Floor Options
When it comes to heating your floors, there are a variety of radiant heat options to choose from. And each floor heating system can be easily customized to best meet your needs. Homeowners have the choice of installing an electric heated floor or a hydronic (water-based) system. While there are a few options when it comes to hydronic systems, there are several, very distinct choices when it comes to selecting an electric floor heating system. And each system’s heating element offers unique features that make it better suited for certain floor types.
Floor Heating System Components
Before we take a look at some of the industry’s top performing electric floor heating elements, let’s look at the other components of radiant floor heating systems.
Heated floor systems consist of a contactor/control center (sensor), an activation device (thermostat or timer), and heating element. The type of heating element is where these systems vary the most. Electric systems use a variety of heating elements while hydronic systems use PEX tubing for circulating specially treated hot water.
Both electric and hydronic systems use thermostats to regulate the system. The premier thermostat is the programmable TOUCH thermostat (available with or without WiFi capability). The thermostat relies on a sensor (or sensors) to control the temperature. A series of sensor options are available with your floor heating thermostat. Temperature can be controlled by using either a sensor that is embedded in the floor (to detect the floor temperature), an external sensor (to measure the room’s ambient temperature), or a combination of the two.
In addition to virtually no heat loss / wasted energy, each zone (room) in the house is controlled individually, further adding to the unmatched efficiency of radiant floor heating. The homeowner can also program the heating system to operate according to the family’s schedule. For example, the floors can be programmed to heat just before you wake up in the morning and then shutoff when you leave for work. They can then turn on again shortly before you return home in the evening. Your floor heating thermostat should include an integrated Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI, Class A). Check with your provider to determine the best thermostat for your needs.
The Heating Elements
When it comes to heating tile, marble and stone floors, the ComfortTile floor heating system is perhaps the most popular and highly recommended solution. It is a versatile floor heating element that is also commonly used to heat laminate and other floor surfaces, but ComfortTile is the optimum choice for heating ceramic tile and marble/slate floors.
ComfortTile features thin heat resistance cable (about 1/8-inch in diameter) that can be purchased off the spool or in mats. The CT mats feature heat cable that is pre-spaced and affixed to a flexible mesh with an adhesive backing. This makes “roll-out” installation quick and easy. The mats heat an area 24-inches wide and are available in various lengths.
The CT mats and cable are pre-terminated for use with 120 and 240V. When purchasing ComfortTile cable off the spool, strapping is included to secure and space the heating cable. This industry leading floor heating cable carries a 10-year manufacturer warranty and comes complete with a GFCI protected thermostat.
In-Slab (also known as SlabHeat) floor heating systems utilize rugged heat cable designed for installation within concrete slabs. Because of the rigorous demands of concrete pours, the In-Slab cable features a protective copper metal sheath and fluoropolymer conductor insulation with a polyolefin outer sheath. Designed to produce 10-15 watts per square foot, In-Slab cable is also waterproof, so it is safe for use in both wet and dry applications.
The twin conductor, single point connection heat cable is laid out over the area to receive the pour and secured to the remesh/rebar (using zip ties). The remesh is supported (lifted off the ground) by plastic Mesh-Ups to keep the cable within about 1½-inches from the concrete’s finished surface. In-Slab heat cable is the premier radiant floor heating solution for concrete slab applications in both custom residential as well as large commercial radiant heating projects. Because the concrete slab retains warmth for long periods of time; even after the system has been turned off, the In-Slab floor heating system is a particularly attractive option for heating basement floors. It carries a 10-year warranty.
Prodeso Heat Membrane with CT Cable
The Prodeso membrane floor heating system consists of a polypropylene uncoupling and waterproofing membrane system that is especially beneficial when installing radiant heat in difficult floors and balconies without movement or expansion joints in the screed. Sheets of membrane are placed over the floor before the ceramic tile or natural stone surface is laid.
The membrane features square shaped reliefs with rounded corners that form channels for the ComfortTile heat cable to be routed, securing the cable and ensuring the proper spacing. At only ¼-inch (5.5mm) in height, the Prodeso membrane results in minimum floor buildup. The membrane also makes the system quick to install, saving on installation labor costs. After the heat cable is placed in the channels of the Prodeso membrane, the flooring can then be installed.
The membrane can be used on all types of floors, indoors and out. It is safe under all conditions and in all weather, and can be used under just about any type of flooring. It even waterproofs the substrate in the case of overlaying on cracked or imperfectly cured floors with a risk of vapor stress. It is designed to ensure maximum flexibility, protection and safety inside and outside the home.
Low-voltage FloorHeat STEP
The low-voltage FloorHeat STEP heating system features an innovative semi-conductive polyethylene heating element, thermostat, and step-down transformer(s). The thin heating element can be rolled out for simple installation under most floor types. The polymer heating element is so thin that no floor buildup is required so it won't affect your weight loads. This feature, coupled with its self-regulating properties that prevent it from overheating, make FloorHeat STEP an ideal solution for heating hardwood floors.
The flexible 12-inch wide heating element can also be nailed and stapled through during the installation, and can be installed in new construction as well as renovation projects. If you can access the floor joists from below, then you can add radiant heat to your existing floors. The heating element is stapled up between the joists and then batt insulation is applied to efficiently direct all the heat upward.
The durable, lightweight heating mat is delivered in a roll and can be cut to size and field wired on the job site for easy installation. (The versatile system is also widely used for roof deicing applications. The heating element can be installed under shingle and metal roofs.)
Low voltage FloorHeat STEP is available for 120V, 208V or 240V systems. There are no high-temperatures, stress, or wear on the heating element and comes with a 20-year warranty.
FilmHeat / RetroHeat
The FilmHeat under floor heating system consists of paper thin heating panels (0.16-inch thick), connection materials, and a unique digital thermostat that includes a 16-amp GFCI breaker and floor sensor for accurate programming. This radiant heat solution requires no floor buildup and is one of the best values for heating laminate floors.
When installing the system, the heating panels are cut to their proper length on site and then installed on the subfloor. After the heating elements are secured, the electrical connections are then made and the laminate floor is installed directly over the panels.
What surprises many consumers is that despite the thin, film-like construction of the heating element, it is very effective for heating laminate floors. The heating panels can also be stapled up in floor joists to provide heat for existing floors. (Batt insulation is applied over the heating element to ensure that all the heat is directed to the floor above. This is the most affordable and efficient way to add radiant heat to an existing floor.) FilmHeat floor heating panels are UL, ETL, NEMKO and CE listed and EMC certified for safety. The floor heating system carries a 10-year warranty.
The FoilHeat system features an ultra thin electric radiant floor heating system designed primarily for heating carpet, laminate, engineered wood and other floating floors. The principle advantages of using FoilHeat include ease of installation, quick response time, and uniform heating of laminate flooring.
The FoilHeat heating element is made with thin fluoropolymer insulated heating cables that are sandwiched between two layers of specially reinforced aluminum foil. The quality materials, superior design and construction make FoilHeat a durable and versatile floor heating solution. The uniform spacing of the heating cable, backed by the conductive aluminum foil, ensure that there are no problems of “hot-spots” or localized heating, which sometimes occur with cheaper floor heating systems.
FoilHeat mats are easy to install and can be cut and shaped on site to meet the specific requirements of the project. (However, when cutting the mat remember to only cut the foil – not the heat cable.)
The watertight heating element is connected to a power-supply cable, which exits the laminate mat from one corner. The power lead is a flat, thin two-core flexible cord, consisting of two insulated conductors with a metal sheath and an outer sheath. Depending on your heating requirement, FoilHeat is available in nominal heat outputs of 80 W/m2 and 140 W/m2 at 230V. It is available in predetermined lengths with cold tail - prefabricated and tested in a carefully controlled factory environment.
The FoilHeat floor heating system consists of the heating element and digital thermostat with 16-amp GFCI breaker and floor sensor for accurate programming. The under floor heating system is an excellent value for installing radiant heat under a variety of floor surfaces, and comes with a 5-year warranty.
Hydronic (water based) Heated Floors
Hydronic (water based) heated floors use a mixture of water and propylene glycol (anti-freeze) that is heated by a boiler and then pumped through a closed loop of PEX tubing. The best hydronic systems use aluminum RAUPANELS that have channels in them to run the PEX tubing.
The RAUPANEL system consists of 3/8-inch RAUPEX flexible pipe and extruded aluminum panels for strength and high conductivity with wood return bends. This provides a low profile and low mass, and eliminates the need for structural reinforcement. RAUPANELs are lightweight and provide a fast response time that limits set point overshoot. For hydronic systems, it provides the highest BTU/h/ft2 output with the lowest water temperature.
This effective low-profile water-based system is an excellent alternative to joist heating and poured thermal mass applications. RAUPANELs and tubing are easy to install, and require less job site preparation and installation time than other methods. However, because hydronic radiant heat systems require a mechanical room to house the boiler, pumps and manifold, this aspect of the installation can be relatively complex, and results in a more costly installation than a similar sized electric heated floor. The RAUPANEL floor heating system is designed to provide rapid response, optimal performance and ease of installation.
To learn more about the various floor heating systems, call a friendly radiant heat expert today at 888-488-9276.