Radiant floor heating is more of a luxury, but one you should consider. It keeps the room temperatures even from top to bottom as the heat rises from the bottom to the top. Also, it makes no noise, stirs up no dust and allergens making it an excellent replacement for forced air systems. It’s mainly suitable for bathrooms if you dread the cold floor more so during winter. Additionally, it is energy efficient meaning you will save more in the long-term unlike with forced air systems. The only shortcoming is that it lacks a cooling system which means you will have to invest in different equipment for that.
So is radiant floor heating worth the hassle?
Compared to traditional heating systems, radiant floor heating is more energy efficient as it only needs to be heated to 30 degrees or less depending on the floor finish to warm a room efficiently. Conversely, traditional radiators have to be heated to 70 degrees Celsius to warm up a room meaning the radiant floor heating will consume less energy and thus lower your heating bills.
Also, radiant floor heating is more effective at warming up a room. Since the electrical wires are evenly laid out beneath the floor finishing, heat will rise uniformly warming up all parts of the house. In contrast, forced air systems start by heating the air closest to them making that particular spot too hot. It’s therefore not uncommon to see windows above these systems open to allow in some cold air and out goes the energy you paid so much for. By and large, radiant floor heating will save you 15% on energy bills.
Works with all floor coverings and offers more design and space freedom
Radiant floor heating provides liberty with the floor design you choose. It can work with tiles, laminate, wood, or carpet flooring. Additionally, you can enjoy your rooms without tons of radiators. You are also left with enough wall space for your decorations and paintings.
Effortless to run
In-floor heating is the ultimate system. Radiant floor heating can be programmed to come on at a specific time and shut down at other times. Also, with a smart Wi-Fi thermostat, you can ensure that your system runs in the most efficient manner. However, the fact that the system needs no maintenance and that it comes with a 30-year guarantee makes it even more appealing than
Safety and Comfort
Finally, radiant floor heating is innocuous and offers more comfort than traditional radiators. Given that the heating elements are tucked away underneath the floor, you no longer have to worry about hot surfaces or sharp edges when young ones are in the house. Additionally, you will have better air quality that’s oxygen-rich with radiant floor heating unlike with forced air systems. First, forced air radiators have the dust going in circles which doesn’t happen with floor heating. Also, traditional systems often burn too hot, reducing the oxygen in your house which doesn’t happen with radiant floor heating.
If you are looking for heating apparatuses that allows you more freedom, is safer and is more comfortable to use, and one that’s energy efficient, you might want to look into radiant floor heating. However, everything has its limitations, and radiant floor heating is subject to this as well.
Radiant Floor Heating Installation Cost
The most significant limitation with radiant floor heating systems is the high cost associated with putting them in. To paint a more realistic picture, you will spend between $3 and $20 per square foot depending on the system you use. That aside, you will have to engage the services of a qualified technician for a few hours to connect your system to your power supply. A trained technician will set you back between $100 and $250 every hour. Also, you might want to put in some insulation materials under the heating elements for energy efficiency which again increases the price. A water-based system i.e., a hydronic system is a bit cheaper.
General Services of Radiant Floor Heating Contractors
Given the long life of radiant floor heating systems, these services associated with the radiators are relatively few. They are:
- Radiant floor heating installation
- Radiant floor heating repair and maintenance
- Emergency services and consultation
Radiant Floor Heating Installation Cost
Crunching numbers is often a demanding task especially if you don’t know where to start. However, worry not as we got you covered.
As indicated earlier, you will spend between $3 and $20 per square foot, depending on the system you put in. Typically, homeowners report paying between $1700 and $5220 to set up floor heating. Nonetheless, you can have a system for as little as $400 0r as much as $9800.
This is a massive difference in price, but it’s mostly due to the many factors influencing it. These factors are:
Normal Cost Factors
As with any contracted job, there are frequent factors such as distance to the site, local labor rates, and disposal of debris that will influence the total price of the project.
First, some job prerequisites will have to be transported to the job site and therefore, the farther you are from suppliers, the more you will have to spend. Other than the distance to the job site, equipment will also affect the price. Before employing the services of any company, make sure that they have all the machines required for the job as it will be cheaper compared to hiring.
Type of Radiant Floor Heating and Existing Flooring
There are three radiant floor heating systems, but the two common ones are electric systems and hydronic (hot water) systems. Hydronic systems are a bit inexpensive to put in compared to the electrical systems. They will set you back a min amount of $3 per square foot, unlike the electronic systems that cost a minimum $8 for every square foot. However, these amounts are determined by your existing flooring. If you have a large floor in place, the price will be higher; but then again the kind of flooring has to be considered as well. Installing radiant floor heating on stone surfaces will be more expensive unlike wood flooring as they are challenging to work on. Finally, it will be cheaper to put in the equipment during construction or an extensive remodel. By so doing, you reduce labor costs.
Square Footage of Flooring
Strangely enough, smaller areas will cost you more per square foot than larger rooms. The high cost is because you are dealing with confined spaces which are a bit difficult to work on. Also, with more extensive spaces, you will enjoy economies of scale, i.e. discounts as you will be making more purchases and engaging the services of contractors longer.
|1 sq. Ft.||$3||$20||
|1 avg house||$1700||$5220||$3450
Types of In-Floor Heating
As pointed out earlier, there are three kinds of in-floor heating systems. The two which are most common in residential houses are electric and hydronic systems. The third, forced air system, is less common due to its lower efficiency and often used in industrial and commercial buildings.
Also known as a hot water system, hydronic apparatus is cheaper to install and inexpensive to operate compared to the electric equipment. Most homeowners report paying between $6000 and $14,000 for hydronic systems and though the price seems hefty, the long-term benefits, i.e. energy efficiency and long life are worth considering.
First, you will need to engage the services of a qualified technician who will set you back between $100 and $150 per hour. Also, the price will vary depending on the time the work is done. Engaging the services of a contractor during winter will be more expensive unlike during summer months because they are in high demand during these cold months. Therefore, if you are looking to pay less, hire contractors during their off-peak periods.
A well-designed hydronic system will cost about $3 per square foot and can be as little as $2 for a slab on grade.
For a hydronic system, other than the floor components you will need a boiler to supply the required water. A furnace with a 96% efficiency will cost you between $4500 and $7000. Nevertheless, you can also use a water heater which is a bit inexpensive. A 50-gallon stainless steel indirect water heater will set you back anywhere from $360 to $1600. Oddly though, you can use your existing water heater to supply the required water to your system. Some of the current water heaters dispense more heat than required. You can redirect some of this warmness to your hydronic system. Your outworker should be able to help with this, but chances are it’s enough to heat a small space, for instance, a bathroom.
Tubing – Initially, copper tubing was used but had the shortcoming of corroding and leaking after some time. In recent years, PEX tubing has become the preferred material as it rarely leaks and conducts heat faster. Expect to pay about $40 for a 100-foot roll.
Brass manifolds – These will set you back between $50 and $95 depending on the size and number of outlets in each.
Thermostats – The model and features determine the price of each thermostat. Nonetheless, expect to pay between $50 and $100.
Labor and equipment – Finally, we have the labor and equipment charges. Your locale and the number of hours you engage the services of work persons will determine the amount you incur on labor charges. Additionally, equipment will factor in the total cost. These include joists, heavy-duty drills, and materials required to add support. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, it’s better to engage the services of a contractor who carries her equipment as they will be cheaper.
|Slab installation||One sq. Ft.||$3
|Slab on grade||One sq. Ft.||$2
|PEX Tubing||100 Ft.||$40
An electric system is more affordable to install, unlike a hydroponic system. However, the cost of maintenance will be higher as will the heating bills since the system uses your electricity to maintain the heat in your house. This is unlike the hydronic system which uses water that is a better conductor of heat and retains warmness more. Most homeowners report spending between $700 and $7000 to install electric radiant systems. The space to be covered will determine the amount you pay. Again, setting up these systems during the cold months will be more expensive as it’s often the peak periods for most contractors. You will be better off putting them in during summer. Also, retrofitting will cost you more, unlike setting them up during construction. Retrofitting a house means you will have to drill holes in your floor which increases the cost.
Other than the labor costs, the next cost determiner is the materials. There is relatively a range you can choose from when it comes to the electric floor heating system.
First, you will need a heat sensor which will set you back $21.95 which works well with a programmable thermostat; that is, it will alert the thermostat when to come on and when to shut down according to your chosen settings. You will also need a thermostat which will set you back $25.64. However, mats, kits, and heating cables influence the price more.
Cables, mats, and kits
110V – 120V, 50 Watt 9-foot heating cable will set you back $24.86, and $41.60 for a 110V to 220V 40 foot electric pipe heating cable.
Mats are suitable for small areas like bathrooms and are cheaper making them an ideal option for homeowners on a budget. A 5 square foot mat 110V to 220V will set you back $60 each while a 15 sq. foot mat with a 110 to 120 voltage going for $90 each.
Kits will set you back between $150 and $500 depending on the size and voltage.
|Heating Cable||1 Ft.||$1||$3||
|Mats||1 sq. Ft.||$6||$12||
Seeing as radiant heating is in your floor, and heat is radiated rather than blown, it’s only wise we understand which flooring work best with these systems.
Stone flooring – This is one of the best options available. What makes stone flooring incredible is that it can hold heat for quite some time. Of all the floor types available, stone flooring happens to be the best at retaining heat. The only shortcoming is it can take a while to heat up. Some homeowners have reported it taking close to one week to get to the required temperature, but it’s often smooth sailing from there.
Ceramic – Ceramic tiles are another excellent flooring option if you intend to use in-floor heating. They are easy to put in, and make repairs a breeze. Also, they heat up quickly and maintain heat for a while.
Wood is another superb option. However, wood is subject to expansion and contraction as it goes through the heating cycles.
Carpet – It’s unwise to use in-floor heating with a carpeted floor as they are quite insulating. With a carpeted floor, you will use more power to get to the required room temperatures thus increasing your heating bills.
When putting in radiant systems, there are some things you ought to consider.
Radiant floor systems are not known for their cooling capabilities. Moreover, it would not be cost-effective to install radiant cooling in the floor seeing as cold air falls meaning that the part closest to the floor will be too cold unlike the upper parts of a room. It’s, therefore, only wise to put in a radiant cooling system in the ceiling. However, you will have to invest in more equipment such as a chiller or a dehumidifier.
Though radiant heating systems are energy efficient and thus cost-effective, you might want to do away with all the heating bills and a solar system can help. As solar systems become affordable by the day, installing one will make sure you have the necessary energy to supply the heat needed.
Before engaging the services of a radiant heating contractor, ensure he is carrying PEX tubing. In the last 35 years, PEX tubing has become the go-to material for radiant floor heating as it does not corrode nor leak. Though it was flawed when it was introduced 60 years ago, the challenges, i.e., allowing oxygen through leading to corrosion, the issues have since been addressed unlike copper tubing which corrodes and leaks over time.
Finally, we have the pre-fitted panels. This sub-flooring is pre-fitted with tubing which will reduce the labor you will engage in putting in your system. Though it will be expensive, it will be cheaper in the long-run. First, you don’t have to employ work persons to drill holes in your home. Secondly, they are pre-lined with aluminum allowing better heat distribution.
When estimating the square footage to put in your radiant floor heating, only calculate the floor space that is often used. It isn’t cost efficient installing heating under appliances or behind the toilet as these are areas you rarely use.
Add an extra 15% to your budget. Complications can arise during installation, and the additional 15% caters for this.
Try to get discounts. For a lower price on your radiant floor heating system, visit every company that offers the service and try to get a better price. Bargaining will often lead to you saving about 20% on your installation. Finally, expect prices to fluctuate between companies as they different overheads and running costs.
How to Find a Good Radiant Heating Contractor
Getting a competent radiant heating contractor is the first step in getting top quality work done on your home. Also, you might want to get a proficient contractor considering the amount of money involved.
The first step in getting a credible contractor is carrying out some due diligence. If you are looking for a private contractor, you might want to consider checking the Radiant Panel Association. However, if you are interested in companies, check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for proficient companies. You can also look up companies rating and reviews on Angie’s list, an online review site.
Online reviews will also provide some vital insight about the companies you are dealing with. Pay particular attention to the negative reviews as they might point out some red flags. Finally, you can ask for referrals from neighbors, friends or family members who have put in in-floor heating systems. References are unsurpassed when it comes to getting a reliable contractor. Ask about their experiences with their chosen contractor, if they could engage their services again and why?
Certified employees and essential paperwork
Another crucial item you ought to look at to get a reliable contractor is the paperwork and certification of the company’s employees. If you are looking to install an electric system, your installer should be certified by the electronic security association. For a hydronic system, s/he should have training in plumbing. Other than the certification, there are some necessary papers that all organizations should have. Check with your local authorities for the paperwork that contractors should carry. However, some of the basics a radiant heating contractor should have is a license and insurance. The insurance cover should go well beyond general insurance to errors and omissions insurance, and compensation coverage. In conclusion, don’t take the company’s word for it, and ask to see the papers.
Address and professionalism
Another way to make sure you get a professional company is to ask for their address. Any proficient company will have a physical location. You can also visit them too just to be sure. As for professionalism, there are some ways you can do this. First, you can ring the company and check if a person answers the phone or a generic answering machine. Only work with companies that engage professionals to answer phone calls as it is a show of professionalism.
Finally, you can organize a meetup with a company’s representative to get a feel of their professionalism. First, ensure you get the representatives name and check their identification once you meet up. Check on some things before hiring them. First, the representative should be on time or offer an apology in advance if s/he is running late. If they are going to miss the meeting entirely, they should provide at least a day’s notice. Also, avoid representatives who generalize responses. Credible companies engage the services of individuals who can address issues proficiently.
When hiring contractors, the rule of thumb is that you should get at least three bids from companies. These give you a wide array of not only price but services as well. When taking appraisals, ensure companies are bidding on the same job, and that they provide an in-person estimate and not a telephone estimate. Be wary of very low valuations. If the deal is incredibly good to be true, it often is, and it could be a bait and switch scam.
Experience and busy schedule
Though radiant floor heating systems aren’t exactly complicated to install, you still need to engage the services of a professional for safety concerns. The said professional ought to have a minimum of 1-year hands-on experience installing radiant heating equipment. Such experience assures you of quality work. Another way to get a competent installer is checking their schedule. Any proficient contractor will have a busy schedule more so during the cold months. There is comfort when working with radiant heating installation companies with a busy schedule as you are confident people trust them.
DIY Installation vs. Hiring a Pro
The major drawback when installing radiant floor heating is the high cost involved. However, with a bit of knowledge in laying tiles, you can more than half this amount. You will only incur a fee of $580 for a 12’ by 12’ room when you DIY a hydronic system owing to innovation in flooring materials. This price does not include the cost of tiles.
Typically, installing hydronic systems is a job for a pro, but with “Bokatec,” a specially engineered foam from Schluter Systems, you can now DIY. Lay the foam panels on the floor and press-fit the tubing directly; later add a bit of specially mixed concrete. That is one part cement and five parts sand. The advantage of the “Bokatec” foam panels is that they are easy to install, cheap, and only adds 13/4” to your floor vs. the 4 inches added when you use conventional methods.
As for electric systems, you will often have to hire a professional to deal with the electrical appliances. Nevertheless, you can still DIY by installing mats. These are easy to install as the cable is enclosed in the synthetic fiber but quite expensive as they will set you back between $6 and $20.
When and Why to Hire a Professional
Installing an in-floor heating system can be as easy as laying a mat or quite tricky necessitating the need for a floor retrofitting. Nonetheless, there are some instances where you should not attempt to DIY but engage the services of a professional.
The skills and wealth of experience a pro offers are worth considering. For example, some flooring, e.g. linoleum might not work with your preferred heating system. Also, it might be more energy efficient to insulate beneath your floor components to avoid loss of heat. This knowledge isn’t at your disposal when you DIY. Finally, if you desire the certainty of quality work, then hiring a qualified technician is the only way to go. Also, there is the time constraint. Thanks to their experience, pros can fit your house with radiant systems in record time.
The only shortcoming with hiring a pro is the price involved. Seeing as retrofitting a 12’ by 12’ room takes around 12 to 16 hours, at a rate of $100 an hour, you will pay a hefty fee of between $1200 and $1600.
Pros of DIY
The chief benefit of DIY is the reduced cost. With DIY, you don’t have to engage the services of a technician which reduces your cost. Also, you have the freedom to shop around for supplies that are within your budget. Also, you maintain your privacy as you are not letting anyone in your house.
How to Avoid Radiant Floor Heating Scams
The home heating industry is a legit industry, but one riddled with cons. A typical radiant floor heating scam is the bait and switch scam where companies price their services too low just to get into your home. Afterwards, they will try and sell you items you don’t require to swindle you of your money. Also, they might use scare tactics to get you to sign fraudulent contracts. Most radiant floor heating scams revolve around contractors claiming they are on a tight schedule and will only accept to work on your house if you sign the contract “today,” or today-only discount tactics. It’s therefore quite essential to investigate institutions before engaging their services. However, there are some ways you can avoid these scams.
Ask for a second opinion
Okay, say a contractor is quoting a price that is too high or one that is too low, it’s wise to ask for an opinion from a second contractor. This goes as well if a contractor is quoting a price that is too low. Getting a second opinion will give you a rough idea of what the cost for installation and radiant heating professional services is.
When it comes to paying the radiant heating contractor, there are some things you shouldn’t do. First, never make any cash payments as they are difficult to trace and prove. You might, therefore, be subjected to double payments should the contractor decide to sue you. Instead, make bank payments or write the company a cheque. There is some comfort in knowing that a paper trail showing proof of payment exists. Second, you shouldn’t make payments to an individual. Credible contractors understand the importance of defining clear boundaries between personal and company finances and will always request you make payments to the company. Finally, don’t make upfront payments as contractors might disappear without making the required installations. Only make payments when you are content with the work done. You can as well come up with a payment schedule with your contractor.
Before calling a technician to install the system for you, you should first consider the DIY options you have. If you are looking to put in a bathroom mat, you might want to consider DIY as it will not only save you a ton of money but will help you avoid possible cons.
Don’t Sign on the Spot
Most scammers will try and get you to sign a contract on the spot. Often, they will use “today-only discount” tactics to entice you. Usually, the offer is designed to mislead you, and the fine print has different stipulations. Therefore, take your time to go through the details.
After choosing your preferred contractor, ensure you get the estimates in writing and don’t be satisfied with verbal promises. A contract will protect you from overhead costs and protects the institution you hired as well. Ensure the contract stipulates what the company should accomplish (in this case, radiant floor heating installation), the timelines as well, amount to be paid and the payment schedule.
10 Questions to Ask a Radiant Floor Heating Contractor
1. Which brands do you carry?
The basic idea here is to know which products the contractor uses during installation. First, you should shop around to figure out which products are of top quality and for a reasonable price. Afterwards, you can compare what the brands the companies are carrying with your research. Also, asking this question helps you when budgeting, and assures you only get top equipment installed in your house.
2. Will the flooring interfere with my radiant floor heating system?
The aim here is to make sure your floor is compatible with the in-floor heating system. Also, you might want to ask this to certify that your chosen contractor is qualified. If you desire to warrant that you are dealing with a qualified contractor, you ought to know a bit about the different floors. If you are dealing with linoleum, you might want to contact the manufacturer for compatibility.
3. Can the current heater be used?
As pointed out earlier, most water heaters present in homes can provide heat. You should ask your contractor this question as it might save you the money you could have spent on a new water heater.
4. Is the system energy efficient?
Any reliable contractor will work towards making sure that the entire in-floor heating system is energy efficient. The idea here is to make sure that your heating bills reduce in the future. Also, s/he should provide measures s/he puts in place to make sure no heat is lost. These include insulating below the floor to ensure. Also, the contractor should point out how they intend to distribute the heat evenly. E.g., using wire mesh or aluminum plates.
5. What guarantees do you provide on the system?
Most in-floor heating systems, have a guarantee of about 30 years. Make sure your contractor can assure you of this. Also, certify if they service their systems.
6. Do I have to fill the entire room?
In-floor heating is often used as an accent over an all-over installation. Your contractor should advise you depending on what you are looking. Typically, s/he should be able to advise on the best places to put in a radiant system. E.g., right in front of the tub shower as it ensures your toes are warm. Also, they should inform on the places not to put in radiant floor systems. These include under appliances or behind the toilet.
7. How do I tile over a limited installation?
It’s entirely possible to do a partial in-floor heating system with one flooring finish. However, you should consider different floor finishes for the heated and the unheated floor parts. First, they are appealing and will save you from potential disaster seeing as radiant floor heating is installed in the floor, and the flooring will have to be destroyed to conduct repairs. This means you will have to invest in another full flooring which could have been avoided by using a different finish in the heated area. Make sure to consult with your installer on this.
8. Which system should I install?
In-floor heating systems are of three kinds: forced air systems, hydronic, and electric systems. Any credible contractor should be able to advise you on the best equipment for your house. However, it’s important to know that only two of the three are ideal for residential homes; electric and hydronic. Don’t work with any contractor who suggests the forced air apparatuses as they aren’t cost effective.
9. Any new technology I should consider?
Change is inevitable, and radiant heating systems are not exempt from this. The idea here is to ensure you only get the best equipment in your house.
10. How long has your company been in business and under what names?
Finally, ask about the company’s history. The idea here is to know the work ethic of the business. Engage any company that provides all information and avoid one that isn’t willing or is hesitant to give the information. Also, knowing a company’s past names allows you to check their previous work record and reviews as well.
Radiant floor heating can be a luxurious feeling and is quite cost-effective. However, it’s not a standalone heating item as there are some functionalities it can’t help with. You should, therefore, consider installing it in places that matter. A bathroom, or the area in front of the vanity for warm toes.