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10507 Deakins Hall Drive, Hyattsville, Maryland 20783, United States

301 537-8684

W.L. Vorhies Plumbing and Heating

Plumbing and Heating Service & Hot Water Heaters

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Radiant Heat

Warm Floors

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 Radiant heat  systems supply heat directly to the floor or to panels in the wall or ceiling of a house. The systems depend largely on radiant heat transfer -- the delivery of heat directly from the hot surface to the people and objects in the room via infrared radiation.   When radiant heating is located in the floor, it is often called radiant floor heating or simply floor heating.  Radiant heat has a number of advantages. It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because it eliminates duct losses. People with allergies often prefer radiant heat because it doesn’t distribute allergens like forced air systems can.  Hydronic (liquid-based) systems use little electricity, an obvious  benefit.  Hydronic systems can use a wide variety of energy sources to heat the liquid, including standard gas- or oil-fired boilers, wood-fired boilers, solar water heaters, or a combination of these sources.  

ELECTRIC RADIANT FLOORS

Electric radiant floors typically consist of electric cables built into the floor. Systems that feature mats of electrically conductive plastic mounted on the subfloor below a floor covering such as tile are also available.Electric radiant floors may also make sense for home additions if it would be impractical to extend the heating system into the new space.  Vorhies Plumbing will be happy to examine other options with you, such as mini-split heat pumps, which operate more efficiently and have the added advantage of providing cooling.

HYDRONIC RADIANT FLOORS

Hydronic (liquid) systems are the most popular and cost-effective radiant heat  systems for heating-dominated climates. Hydronic radiant floor systems pump heated water from a boiler through tubing laid in a pattern under the floor. In some systems, controlling the flow of hot water through each tubing loop by using zoning valves or pumps and thermostats regulates room temperatures. The cost of installing a hydronic radiant floor varies by location and depends on the size of the home, the type of installation, the floor covering, remoteness of the site, and the cost of labor.

TYPES OF FLOOR INSTALLATIONS

Whether you use cables or tubing, the methods of installing electric and hydronic radiant systems in floors are similar.So-called "wet" installations embed the cables or tubing in a solid floor and are the oldest form of modern radiant floor systems. The tubing or cable can be embedded in a thick concrete foundation slab (commonly used in "slab" ranch houses that don't have basements) or in a thin layer of concrete, gypsum, or other material installed on top of a sub-floor. Thick concrete slabs are ideal for storing heat from solar energy systems, which have a fluctuating heat output. The downside of thick slabs is their slow thermal response time, which makes strategies such as night or daytime setbacks difficult if not impossible. Most experts recommend maintaining a constant temperature in homes with these heating systems.Due to recent innovations in floor technology, so-called "dry" floors, in which the cables or tubing run in an air space beneath the floor, have been gaining in popularity, mainly because a dry floor is faster and less expensive to build. But because dry floors involve heating an air space, the radiant heating system needs to operate at a higher temperature.Some dry installations involve suspending the tubing or cables under the sub-floor between the joists. This method usually requires drilling through the floor joists to install the tubing. Reflective insulation must also be installed under the tubes to direct the heat upward. Tubing or cables may also be installed from above the floor, between two layers of sub-floor. In these instances, liquid tubing is often fitted into aluminum diffusers that spread the water's heat across the floor in order to heat the floor more evenly. The tubing and heat diffusers are secured between furring strips (sleepers), which carry the weight of the new sub-floor and finished floor surface.

FLOOR COVERINGS

Ceramic tile is the most common and effective floor covering for radiant floor heating, because it conducts heat well and adds thermal storage. Common floor coverings like vinyl and linoleum sheet goods, carpeting, or wood can also be used, but any covering that insulates the floor from the room will decrease the efficiency of the system.If you want carpeting, use a thin carpet with dense padding and install as little carpeting as possible. If some rooms, but not all, will have a floor covering, then those rooms should have a separate tubing loop to make the system heat these spaces more efficiently. This is because the water flowing under the covered floor will need to be hotter to compensate for the floor covering. Wood flooring should be laminated wood flooring instead of solid wood to reduce the possibility of the wood shrinking and cracking from the drying effects of the heat.

RADIANT PANELS

Wall- and ceiling-mounted radiant panels are usually made of aluminum and can be heated with either electricity or with tubing that carries hot water, although the latter creates concerns about leakage in wall- or ceiling-mounted systems. Most commercially available radiant panels for homes are electrically heated.Like any type of electric heat, radiant panels can be expensive to operate, but they can provide supplemental heating in some rooms or can provide heat to a home addition when extending the conventional heating system is impractical.  Also,  the panels are frequently used in smaller spaces- reducing the cost of the inefficiencies.
Radiant panels have the quickest response time of any heating technology and -- because the panels can be individually controlled for each room—the quick response feature can result in cost and energy savings compared with other systems when rooms are infrequently occupied. When entering a room, the occupant can increase the temperature setting and be comfortable within minutes.
Vorhies Plumbing will be happy to sit down with you and go over your options- whether it is for a simple retrofit or a major renovation, or a new build.  301-537-8684