Warmth Under Foot

Warmth Under Foot

Do you immediately slip on a pair of thick socks each morning because your tile or stone floors are too cold? If so, it might be time to invest in a radiant floor-heating system, either of the hot water or electric variety.

Homeowners like these systems because they tend to provide more comfort than standard forced-air heating systems. In standard heating systems, hot air rises, often making the top floors of a home too hot and the bottom floors too cold. That doesn't happen with a radiant floor-heating system, where the hot air starts at the floor level and provides a more even heating system throughout a room.

"We've termed it the 'ahhh' factor, and it's the feeling that you get when you step onto a heated floor, especially in the morning or on a cold day," says Wally Lo, product manager with Nuheat Industries in Richmond, B.C.

Floor-heating systems are also more energy efficient than forced-air systems, though they cost more upfront. Ross McCord, brand manager at Santa Cruz, California-based Warmboard, says that radiant floor-heating systems consume 30 percent less energy than do forced-air systems.

"You get more bang for your buck with a radiant floor system," McCord says. "With the typical forced-air system, you're sending out all that heat but it's not going where you want it to go. Radiant heat is right on the floor beneath you. Wherever you go, it's following you."

Radiant floor heating is more costly upfront. McCord says that it can cost homeowners $12 a square foot or more to have a radiant heating system installed in their homes.

Whole-house radiant heating systems tend to be of the hot-water variety, in which hot water runs through tubes under the floor of a home.

For smaller areas, homeowners turn to electric floor heating that is designed to heat, for instance, the bathroom floor.

It is possible for homeowners to install floor-heating systems on their own, and several companies sell both hot-water and electric kits. This is no small project, though.

If you want to install heated floors in an existing home, you'll first have to rip up the current flooring, a daunting task. If you're new to renovation, it could be best to call a contractor.


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