MDM Mechanical

What Is Radiant Floor Heating? How Do Radiant Floor Heating Systems Work?

Radiant heating is an innovative method of heating commercial, industrial, and residential properties. Typically, radiant heating systems utilize existing walls, ceilings, and flooring to effectively, efficiently, and evenly distribute heat throughout the property in question. The process uses radiation to directly deliver heat from a warm surface throughout the property. Since the heat source is coming directly from structural elements like flooring, ceilings, and walls, the heat is evenly distributed throughout the property without any cold spots.

Although there are different forms and sources of radiant heating, this article will focus solely on radiant floor heating systems.

What Is Radiant Floor Heating?

As the name suggests, radiant floor heating systems are heating systems that generate heat directly from the floor of a residential, commercial, or industrial property. Radiant floor heating systems are a major asset to any property because they deliver a consistent heat source through your existing flooring without having to install additional baseboard heaters or air ducts. They’re quiet and because they’re installed underneath your existing flooring, the heat rises upward to provide consistent warmth throughout your property.

Hot air replaces cool air as it rises. With a radiant heating system, you can maximize your temperature and comfort levels during the colder months of the year without increasing your energy bills. And you don’t have to worry about the installation and operational processes disrupting dust or other allergens within your flooring structure because radiant floor heating systems completely remove air drafts, which maximizes air quality, breathability, and comfort levels in your property.

However, there are some structural alterations that are involved in the installation process if your property doesn’t already support radiant floor heating systems.

Energy Sources for Radiant Floor Heating

Energy sources for your radiant floor heating systems can vary. There are several different types of radiant energy sources that you can purchase including air-heated, electric, and hydronic radiant floor heating systems (more on these later). The type of radiant floor heating system you choose will depend on the type of energy source you already have or are planning to install. Radiant floor heating systems can be compatible with boilers, heat pumps, or solar connectors.

Fuel-burning boilers come in a variety of configurations including biomass, natural gas, propane, or oil. Electric boiler systems are also an option, but they may be a little more expensive to install and operate consistently.

If the high operational costs of electric boilers and the fuel burning method of gas boilers are off-putting to you, then the next best cost-effective solution are heat pumps. Heat pumps also run on electricity, but they’re significantly more energy-efficient and therefore cost less to operate on a regular basis.

Lastly, there are solar collectors, which are compatible with hydronic radiant floor heating systems only. Solar collectors heat water using solar energy. If the available solar radiation supply is insufficient to meet your heating needs, then they can be used in conjunction with a heat pump or boiler system to make up the difference.

Types of Radiant Floor Heating Systems

There are three different types of radiant floor heating systems. Before purchasing and installing a radiant floor heating system, it’s important to do your research and understand what type of energy source is most suitable for your needs.

Electric Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Electric radiant floor heating systems rely on electricity sources such as electric boilers. They’re most suitable for properties that run on time-of-use electricity rates. Floors that have a high thermal mass (the capacity to retain and store large amounts of heat), such as concrete, are most ideal for this configuration as it can be slightly more expensive to run on a consistent basis.

To reduce operational costs, electric radiant floor heating systems can be operated in off-peak hours when electricity costs are generally lower to retain as much heat as possible to be used during peak hours.

Electric radiant floor heating systems require the installation of plastic conductive mats or heating cables as they depend on resistance heating, so it’s important to budget for potentially higher operational costs compared to other types of radiant floor heating systems.

Air-Heated Radiant Floor Heating Systems

As the name suggests, air-heated radiant floor heating systems require ducts inside the flooring system to provide hot air and distribute it throughout the property. Air-heated radiant floor heating systems are therefore not a viable option for residential apartment buildings.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Hydronic radiant floor heating systems use hot water to heat your flooring. For that reason, it’s the most cost-effective and commonly used radiant floor heating system on the market. It’s used for properties that rely on a thermostat system to heat each room.

Hydronic radiant floor heating systems are compatible with boiler systems that heat and pump water through hydronic pipes. This way, the hot water is evenly distributed throughout the property to provide consistent heating in each location.

Adding to the cost savings of hydronic radiant floor heating systems, minimal maintenance is required, and operational costs are also on the low end of the spectrum compared to its counterparts.

Key Components of Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Several physical components must be installed to make for a fully functional radiant floor heating system, regardless of the configuration. Key components of radiant floor heating systems include:

  • A working thermostat.Although it’s not a necessity for all radiant floor heating systems, it makes operations more convenient by allowing occupants to control the temperature.
  • Actuator fittings and valves.Fittings connect piping to various system components and parts. Valves help control the water flow capabilities of the pipes to prevent too much high-pressure water movement at one time, which can damage the pipes.
  • Used for hydronic radiant floor heating systems, manifolds distribute hot water through the piping runs.
  • Control pack.Connected directly to the thermostat, the control pack communicates instructions to other system components for maximum occupant control and comfort.

What Are the Benefits of Radiant Floor Heating?

  • Easy Installation
  • Easy Operation
  • High Efficiency
  • Space Saving
  • Enhanced Safety Measures
  • Affordable

If you’re thinking of switching to a radiant floor heating system for your residential, commercial, or industrial property, you can trust the heating and cooling experts at MDM Mechanical. We make the purchasing and installation process as seamless as possible, so you can get right to enjoying maximum comfort throughout your property. Contact us today to book a consultation with one of our technicians or to get a quote.

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