Water or electric: Which is best for radiant floor heating?

Water or electric: Which is best for radiant floor heating?Water or electric: Which is best for radiant floor heating?

Radiant floor heating is one of those home improvement projects that every homeowner has in the back of his or her mind. It's usually one of those dream additions that can turn freezing cold floors in the dead of winter into constantly warm surfaces throughout your house. If you've ever woken up to a snowstorm and couldn't find your slippers, you've experienced just what radiant floor heating can help you avoid.

But not all radiant floor heating systems were created equal, and adding one to your home still requires a bit of expertise to determine the right model for you and your house. Underfloor heating configurations come in two major variations: electric and hydronic, or water-fed setups. Each offers a different experience and is right for certain homes, so check them out and decide which is right for you.

Electric radiant floor heating: Customizable and DIYable 
One unfortunate fact about radiant floor heating is that once your house has actually been constructed and the floors have been put down, your options are limited. Heating elements work best when placed directly under the subfloor, which is difficult to access in a completed home. However, electric systems can be placed underneath flooring materials for a similar experience.

Another consideration with underfloor heating is the distance the heating mats raise your floor. Green Home Guide explained that hydronic systems typically have bulky profiles that can cause issues with doors or furniture that already have tight fits. However, the average electric heating setup only raises your floor about 1/8 inch. They also come in easy-to-install premade mats that just need to be snapped together and connected to an electrical source. The simplicity of electric radiant floor heating means that you can install your own system with a bit of knowledge and some determination.

However, electric system aren't great at providing heat to your entire house. First, the premade mats come in rectangular shapes that may not fit every room in your home, and they don't stay at peak temperatures without a constant supply of energy. Depending on where you live, you might see a much higher electric bill than you're used to getting.

Hydronic radiant floor heating: For the whole house
If you're doing a substantial remodel  or want to build a new home from scratch, hydronic radiant floor heating is your best bet for seamlessly integrating a system into your house. Instead of premade mats, hydronic configurations snake heated water through flexible tubing that's customized to each room in your house. This means you can cover every floor of every room in your home, regardless of shape or size.

Another benefit of the hydronic format is that water retains heat much longer than electric coils. Even after you turn off the water supply, the liquid contained in the floor panels will continue to heat your home for up to several hours depending on the outside temperature and your home's insulation. Once hydronic systems reach the target temperature, they also only require a little amount of energy to stay there indefinitely.

Just like electric radiant floor heating, hydronic setups have their flaws, too. Because they require more room to install, you can't just tear your floorboards up and hope for the best. BobVila.com explained that hydronic systems also need to be hooked directly up to your home's plumbing system – any mistakes in this process can have serious consequences for not just radiant floor heating, but your entire house.

Radiant floor heating can heat your whole house more efficiently than forced-air systems, all while hiding any trace of heating elements or ugly vents. Decide which configuration is right for you and add radiant floor heating to your home today.

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