Heard about Radiant Heat Flooring?

Radiant heat flooring is a development in home heating that uniquely remains hidden while creating a smooth and even heat. Find out more about various radiant heating systems.

What is Radiant Heat Flooring?

Infrared radiation is why, when you are standing many feet from a bonfire on a cold night, you will be cooking hot until someone stands in front of you, and then you are instantly cold. The heat is not in the air around you, but in the infrared waves originating at the fire and hitting you directly. The air in between is virtually unaffected.


While radiant heating systems are so named because they use infrared radiation to convey the heat from the heating elements directly to the area being heated, convection is also relied on to spread the warmth throughout the space.

Three Radiant Heating Systems: You’ll be Floored

Radiant heating systems for floors involve one of three main delivery methods:

  • Air tubes with warm or hot air from solar installations, fireplaces, stoves or furnaces running through the floor where it can radiate upward and warm the floor and anything above the floor. As air holds relatively little energy as compared to a fluid like water, the air version is hardly used and is really good only as a supplemental system, if at all.

  • Electrical heat lines set into the floor serve the same purpose.

  • Hot water lines are the third alternative.

Installation of Radiant Heat Flooring: Two Variations

Radiant heat systems are set into floors in basically two ways:

Electrical lines or air or water tubing is set into the concrete floor slab at the time the floor is poured. The concrete is used as a heat sink to retain and slowly release heat throughout the day. The slab method is called “wet installation.”

  • Not good for fast changes, but reliably even in most settings.

  • Mainly used where there is no basement and in a single-story structure, such as a ranch-style home.

  • A variation is to install a thinner concrete layer over an existing floor where there is a second story or basement. Reinforcing is often a must.

In the second version, a new layer of air space is introduced by adding a second subfloor layer with an interim air space next to the existing first layer. Into this space are placed electric lines or tubing for water. An alternative is to install the wiring or piping under the floor between the floor joists. This is referred to as a “dry installation.”

  • Sometimes reflectors are added to direct the heat upward.

  • Diffusion panels are often included to spread the heat away from the electric lines or water tubes so that heating is more even.

  • This method is ideal when used in multi-story homes and with homes having a basement.

  • It is lighter and responds more readily to allowing changes in temperature.

Talk to Pros about Radiant Heating Systems

Usually more economical than electric baseboards, heat radiating from the floor allows convection to aid in making heating more uniform. It is as good or greater in efficiency as forced air heat, since ducts are a major point of energy loss. No forced air means no unwanted distribution of allergens. Hydronic (water) systems use little electricity and can be off grid. Any fuel can be used to heat the water.

If interested, contact your local HVAC professional for more details and a home evaluation to see if radiant heat flooring is an option for you.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Alley and Co. Heating/Air and a clickable link back to this page.

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