Keep toes toasty on warm floors with radiant heat

Imagine stepping out of bed at 6 a.m. onto a warm floor or getting ready for your early-morning shower without shivering in an underheated bathroom.

The trick: radiant floor heating.

Sure, it’s a bit of a luxury. But it can keep your toes toasty and add a layer of heat in chilly months. It also can be an effective and efficient source of heat—and even a primary source of heat—for additions, sunrooms or anywhere your traditional heat source has trouble reaching.

Because heat rises, radiant floor heating not only warms the floor, but it radiates heat from floor to ceiling. The heat in radiant floors is typically either electric, from coils running under the floor, or hydronic, from tubes that carry heated water from a boiler. The installation and operating cost of each varies greatly depending on the size of the room or home, the type of installation, the floor covering and the subfloor.

Tile floors and laminate wood floors are best paired with radiant floor heating because of their ability to conduct heat. If your floors are carpeted, radiant heat is a poor choice because the carpet insulates the floor from the rest of the room and requires the radiant system to work harder to heat the space. 

Radiant floor heating is most effective when it is installed within a thick concrete slab in the basement or a thin layer of concrete above the subfloor. That’s because the concrete acts as a thermal mass, storing heat and transferring it well. It’s also possible—and often faster and cheaper—to install the tubes or cables in an air space beneath the floor. However, because it’s operating in an air space, the system will likely have to run at a higher temperature.

Talk to a professional contractor to determine which type of heating system and installation is the most effective and efficient choice for your home.