Advantages of Radiant Floor Heating Systems
What is Radiant Heating?
Radiant heating systems actually heat you in three different ways. The most prominent way is to transfer the heat energy waves from the heating source (usually pipes or panel radiators) in your home, directly to your body. Radiant heating systems will distribute from 40-90% of their heat this way. This is much like the warm feeling you get on a sunny and calm spring day.
When the thermometer reads 65° you still feel warm in a short sleeve shirt when the sun is shining on you. If the sun goes behind a cloud you feel the "real" temperature without the radiant waves of the sun – suddenly you feel cool or even cold. The majority of radiant heat is from these invisible heat waves that warm objects rather than the air.
Secondly, radiant heating systems warm us through conduction. This is the direct heat transfer from the warmer floor to your feet. The same way you would feel warmer by wrapping your hands around a 'hot cup of tea. The heat flows from warm surfaces to cold so rather than the cold floor of your home making you more uncomfortable, the radiant floor heating advantages include increased comfort.
The third way radiant heating systems warm us is through the more conventional method of convection. Air is warmed as it passes over the warmer radiant surfaces and as it is warmed it rises. The warmed air tempers the space you're in but unlike forced air systems, the temperatures moderate closer to the 3-6' range off the floor rather than at the ceiling. The reason for this is much less air movement to begin with and secondly the air cools as it rises and the low temperatures used in radiant heat systems when properly designed by an HVAC expert like AccuTech will "peak" in your comfort zone rather than heating the unused space near your ceilings.
First used in the year 60 AD by Roman builders, to warm what would have been large cold rocks in the bath houses, radiant heating systems have come a long way in providing comfort, energy savings and overall aesthetic advantages that can be added to your home. Currently the most often used method of providing radiant heat is by sending a warmed liquid (water or water-antifreeze mixture) through small tubes under or embedded in your floor. Radiant heat can be added to your walls, ceilings and even your driveway to melt snow and ice. Radiant heat can also be small low voltage electric wires that heat gently under your feet. Electric radiant heat is very safe, low voltage wiring that can provide an excellent choice for a small area that may be inaccessible or impractical to heat with a fluid system. Low voltage electric radiant heat is also a great answer to any home using its own electric generating capability or with special off-peak rates. Usually the most economic way to heat an entire house will be with high efficiency, property-sized boiler and liquid radiant tubes.
Get Comfortable with a Radiant Heating System – The Most Comfortable Type of Heat
The number one reason to choose a radiant heating system is comfort. Radiant heat virtually eliminates drafts, stops the noise of heating systems, cuts down on dust and airborne bacteria and frees up your wall and floor space to use in any way you want. By eliminating the drafts, and warming your body with radiant heat instead of blowing warm air around the room, a radiant heating system improves your comfort. Favorite areas of radiant heat include bathroom floors and tub enclosures. This keeps you warm from the time you step in until you step out of your daily shower or bath.
Kitchen floor heating allows you to work in stocking or barefoot comfort, reducing fatigue from cold floors that draw the heat from you. Foyers and entry ways instantly dry those wet boots and shoes and warm the jackets in the closet. Family room floors become big card or board game tables as people are drawn to the rich warm wood or tile coverings that make you even cozier by sitting or lying on them. Tile, stone and marble surfaces are especially ideal for radiant heating systems. The hard surfaces always remain cooler than the air above and are particularly uncomfortable for long periods of standing. Radiant heating systems in these surfaces makes them not only comfortable but also inviting for standing, sitting or just walking across.
In a survey of 80,000 Americans only 20% said they were very satisfied with their heating systems. In 1000 radiant heated homes surveyed, 98% of the respondents said they were very satisfied with their heating system. Radiant heating systems are the only type of system we know of that so closely matches the ways our bodies feel and give off heat. Eliminating the temperature swings, eliminating the drafty feel of forced air heat and concentrating the heat on the objects (people) rather than the air; it is simply the most comfortable type of heat.
What Kind of Energy Savings Can You Expect from a Radiant Heating System?
Energy savings can be substantial with a radiant heating system. As much as 50% energy savings is not unrealistic. Commercial heat loss programs have recognized this and automatically adjust by lowering the BTU requirements for homes with radiant heating systems from 30-40% as conservative estimates. Savings come in many forms with radiant heating systems. Lower water temperatures require less energy to heat with. Instead of heating air or water to nearly 200 degrees, a radiant heating system will work well with temperatures from 75 to 130 degrees.
For every 3 degrees you lower the supply temperature of a heating system you save approximately 1% in fuel. (190°- 100° = 90° ... 3° = 30% fuel savings) There are less wasted BTUs with the distribution system. Without the drafts, without the uneven temperatures and wasted heat near the ceilings, a radiant heating system can save 10-15% just because of its superior distribution of the heat. Radiant heating systems are easy to zone. This means that instead of heating the rooms you're not using you can set the thermostat back to a lower temperature. By zoning tile heat, your savings in energy can be from 5-25% on large homes.
Because the basic component of the radiant heating system is a boiler, the practicality of adding an indirect water heater that uses the same energy source will save substantially over an electric or vented type water heater. The water heater savings could amount to 10-15% of your energy bill savings. Overall the small extra amount that it will cost to install a radiant system over a forced air system will be paid back in energy savings in 5-7 years in most cases.
Health Benefits of a Radiant Heating System
A radiant heating system is cleaner because it does not require the air movement that forced air systems need. The air movement is what spreads dust, bacteria, germs, pet dander, radon, smoke and contaminants around your home. One of the leading causes in the US for respiratory illnesses according to the American Lung Association is traced to heating systems that force air movement through the home. Air heat systems (convection heat) can be adapted to try to correct the problems but these options drive the system's initial cost and operation prices higher without adding the comfort of radiant heat. Elaborate and expensive to maintain HEPA filters, UV light purification systems and electronic air filters are all popular options that try to correct the problems associated with these convection heat systems.
Increase Your Home's Resale Value with a Radiant Heat System
The resale value of homes equipped with radiant heating systems are more desirable and increase the home's value. New homeowners get added comfort and added savings.
Basements are ideal for installing radiant floor heating. Whether you add warm radiant floor heating to an existing floor or incorporate the tubing into your new home, this usually damp, clammy feeling area becomes a favorite cozy room, with added resale value to your home and added living space for you.
Vaulted ceilings and rooms with lots of glass are a particularly hard challenge for convection heating and lend themselves very well to radiant heating systems. A radiant floor heating system concentrates on heating the objects in the room and the first six feet of air space. There is no need for ceiling fans or high/low returns.
Radiant Heating Systems Show Their Versatility
Versatility is another key to the radiant heating system advantage. Some of the "tricks" of the trade for added comfort and convenience include these creature comforts:
Wrapping the back side of the bath mirrors to eliminate "fogging".
Adding a heated towel bar for warmed towels as you leave the shower.
Running a separate zone outside the home in garden beds for an early start to the season, an extended season or to just protect special plants.
By putting extra loops in a well-insulated closet, jackets and boots become heated or dry off quickly after a rain.
A special pet area can be created in the garage or even outside close to the house without wasting a lot of energy in the process.
You can keep your pets safely protected from the cold without the mess of letting them in and out.
Shower stalls and bathtub floors can have tubing directly underneath to warm the floors.
Snowmelt systems are actually less expensive to run and more effective than using a paid plow service.
For more information about the benefits, cost and energy saving potential of a radiant heating system call or contact AccuTech, the Bucks and Montgomery County PA radiant heating contractor.