Three (3) main elements are utilized to create radiant heat: hydroponic (water), electric, and air. Of the three, hydroponic and electric have proven more efficient. The type of system you choose determines the installation methodology.
There are several types of installation techniques. One method for electric heat involves rolled cables and braces which hold them in place; another uses prefabricated mats, film, or a specialized mesh intertwined with electric wiring. Regardless, the end result is that electricity flows through the cables or other materials, and is able to merely heat the floor itself or the entire room depending on the amount of output.
Hydroponic systems consist of heating liquid which is subsequently pumped through an intricate tubing system. Water can be heated utilizing a myriad of methods including gas, oil, solar water heaters or wood boilers; the choice is yours. Once again, you can heat zones or an entire home with this option. An added benefit is the ability to control the heat from a simple thermostat much like traditional heating systems.
Keep in mind these systems have come a long way since their original introduction. In the past, tubing was not well constructed and repairs were both onerous and expensive. That said, ensure your system is professionally installed and insist upon PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) tubing which is leak-resistant and durable.
Finally, radiant air heating systems are least recommended by most experts in the field. This system requires a furnace to heat the air which is then spread throughout the floor. Heating air is considered inefficient due to the inability of air to maintain heat over extended periods of time. The simple fact remains that this type of radiant heat would most likely require the homeowner to supplement with conventional methods.
All of these systems can be laid directly under a floor, sub-floor or within cement contingent on the type of flooring in your home. Next time, we will discuss a variety of installation techniques for radiant floor heating systems and the best type of system for you and your family!