Comparing Radiant Floor Heating: The Ultimate Showdown. (2023)

Radiant floor heating is a modern heating method that is gaining popularity over traditional heating. Radiant floor heating provides even heat distribution throughout the room, while traditional heating relies on air circulation.

When it comes to keeping our homes warm during winter, traditional heating systems like forced air, hot water baseboards, and radiators have long been popular. However, recently, radiant floor heating has emerged as a more energy-efficient and comfortable heating option.

Radiant floor heating works by using hot water or electric wires installed beneath the flooring to heat up the room evenly. In contrast, traditional heating systems rely on air circulation, which can lead to temperature variations and uneven heating. In this article, we will explore the differences between radiant floor heating vs. Traditional heating to help you choose the best heating system for your home.

Comparing Radiant Floor Heating: The Ultimate Showdown. (1)


Types Of Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Radiant floor heating is a great way to keep your home warm and toasty during the chilly winter months. With various types of radiant floor heating systems available on the market, it can be challenging to know which one to choose.

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We will provide you with a detailed comparison of each system to help you make an informed decision. Let’s dive into the types of radiant floor heating systems available:

Electric Radiant Floor Heating

Electric radiant floor heating systems work by installing electric wires or mats beneath your floor surface. When you turn on the system, electricity runs through the wires or mats, heating the floor surface and radiating warmth throughout your room. Here are some key points to note about electric radiant floor heating:

  • Electric radiant floor heating is best suited for small spaces, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Installation costs for electric radiant floor heating are relatively low compared to other systems.
  • Electric radiant floor heating is easy to install and can be a diy project for those who are handy.
  • This system is energy-efficient and can help reduce your energy bills.
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Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating

Hydronic radiant floor heating systems use hot water pipes to heat the floor surface. The heated water runs through the pipes, warming the floor surface and radiating heat throughout your room. Here are some essential things to keep in mind about hydronic radiant floor heating:

  • Hydronic radiant floor heating is ideal for large spaces, such as living rooms or open-concept areas.
  • Installation costs for hydronic radiant floor heating systems are higher than electric systems, but they are more efficient in the long run.
  • Hydronic radiant floor heating may require professional installation, depending on your technical skills.
  • This system is the most energy-efficient type of radiant floor heating, making it an eco-friendly choice.

Air-Heated Radiant Floor Heating

Air-heated radiant floor heating systems distribute warm air through your floors using air ducts installed beneath the floor surface. Here are some critical points to be aware of regarding air-heated radiant floor heating:

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  • This type of radiant floor heating is best suited for small spaces and is more expensive to install than electric radiant floor heating.
  • Air-heated radiant floor heating systems require ductwork to distribute air, making them more complicated and costly to install than other systems.
  • This system is the least energy-efficient type of radiant floor heating, making it less eco-friendly than hydronic systems.

Now that you have an overview of the different types of radiant floor heating systems available, you can make an informed decision on which one is best suited for your home. Just remember to consider the size of your space, your budget, and your energy-saving goals when deciding which system to choose.

Factors To Consider When Comparing Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Radiant floor heating systems are becoming increasingly popular for residential and commercial buildings. They offer a more efficient, effective, and comfortable way of heating rooms compared to traditional heating systems such as baseboard heaters or forced-air heating. When comparing radiant floor heating systems, there are various factors to consider that can help you make an informed decision.

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Compatibility With Flooring Types

Not all radiant floor heating systems are compatible with all types of flooring. Some flooring materials may not work well with radiant floor heating while others may offer better heat transfer. It is essential to ensure compatibility with your selected flooring type to avoid damages and lower heating efficiency.

Maintenance Requirements

When comparing radiant floor heating systems, it is vital to consider the maintenance requirements of each system. Some systems may require more frequent maintenance than others, which can be time-consuming and expensive in the long run. Choose a system that fits your maintenance budget and schedule.

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Energy Efficiency Ratings

One of the most significant advantages of using radiant floor heating systems is their energy efficiency. However, not all systems are created equal, and some may be more energy-efficient than others. Look for systems with higher energy efficiency ratings to save on energy costs and reduce your carbon footprint.

Initial Installation And Ongoing Operational Costs

The initial installation and ongoing operational costs of radiant floor heating systems can vary significantly depending on the system and the installation experts. Consider the upfront costs, including the installation charges and the cost of the heating system, as well as the ongoing operational costs such as energy bills and maintenance.

Heating Performance And Effectiveness

Radiant floor heating systems offer comfortable and uniform heating, but some systems may perform better than others. Evaluate the heating performance and effectiveness of each system before making a decision. Look for systems that offer even heating across the room(s) and do not compromise air quality.

READ MORE Installation Guide for Radiant Floor Heating: Step-by-Step Tutorial.

Required Insulation Specifications

Insulation plays a crucial role in the overall efficiency of radiant floor heating systems. Evaluate the recommended insulation specifications for each system and ensure they are compatible and adequate for your space. Proper insulation can help to reduce heat loss, enhance system performance, and save on energy costs.

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Environmental Impact And Sustainability Considerations

The use of radiant floor heating systems can have an impact on the environment and sustainability. Consider systems that maximize energy efficiency, use renewable energy sources such as solar power, and are manufactured using sustainable and eco-friendly materials.

Comparing radiant floor heating systems requires careful consideration of various factors, including compatibility with flooring types, maintenance requirements, energy efficiency ratings, initial installation and ongoing operational costs, heating performance and effectiveness, required insulation specifications, and environmental impact and sustainability considerations.

By evaluating these factors, you can choose the best radiant floor heating system for your space, budget, and sustainability goals.


To sum up, when considering whether to opt for radiant floor heating or a traditional heating system, it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each. While traditional heating may initially seem like the more affordable option, radiant floor heating offers a number of benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Not only does it provide a more comfortable and evenly distributed heat, but it’s also efficient, durable, and better for indoor air quality. Plus, with the added bonus of being compatible with various energy sources and home automation systems, radiant floor heating is a smart choice for those looking to invest in their homes for the long-term.

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Ultimately, the decision of which heating system to choose will depend on the unique needs and preferences of each homeowner. However, one thing is for certain: radiant floor heating is a worthwhile consideration that shouldn’t be dismissed without careful consideration.


What is the best radiant floor system? ›

Porcelain and ceramic tile are widely regarded as the best choice for radiant floor heating. These tiles are thin and conduct heat extremely well. This reduces the energy (and time) needed to warm up a room. Tile will also retain the heat longer than other types of flooring, increasing your efficiency even more.

What is the most efficient radiant heating system? ›

Hydronic radiant floors – The most popular and cost-effective type of radiant heating, hydronic radiant floor systems pump water heated from a boiler through tubing laid in a pattern under the floor. Manifold setup allows varied heating of different zones. This is ideal for homes that already use a water heater.

What are the disadvantages of radiant heat? ›

  • High initial cost: Radiant heating systems can be more expensive to install than traditional heating methods. ...
  • Limited to certain spaces: Radiant heating systems are best suited to spaces with high ceilings or large open spaces, where traditional heating methods can struggle to provide adequate warmth.
Jan 23, 2023

What is the most efficient way to use radiant floor heating? ›

Concrete naturally absorbs heat. By adhering cork or synthetic cork floor underlayment to the slab before installing your radiant heating system, you'll ensure that the heat goes upward through the floor instead of absorbing into the concrete below which will reduce energy use without sacrificing comfort.

What is the lifespan of radiant floor heating? ›

Radiant floor heating systems do not require any maintenance. Once they are installed, they will last for 20+ years without any issues.

Do radiant floors use a lot of electricity? ›

If you've ever wondered, “Do heated floors use a lot of electricity?”, the answer is: less than you would think. In reality, a radiant heating system for a small bathroom uses about the same amount of energy as a freezer.

Is radiant heat worth the cost? ›

When remodeling your bathroom, radiant floor heating is especially worth thinking about. You will save a lot on the labor cost if the flooring is being lifted up and changed anyway. The comfort and the cost savings of running the system on your heating bills will work out to your advantage in the longer run.

Is electric or hydronic radiant heat better? ›

Hydronic radiant heat is considerably more energy efficient than electric. Once the floor is heated, the structure of the house helps maintain and hold in the heat for long periods of time. This can help save energy costs in the long term.

Does radiant heater use a lot of electricity? ›

Compared to traditional radiators, radiant heating panels are highly efficient – which leads to lower running costs. Traditional convection radiators work by heating the air around them. The air circulates around the room, eventually heating the people and objects in the room.

What is the problem with radiant floor heating? ›

The main cause of problems with in-floor radiant heating systems is a defect in the wall thermostat. When your thermostat is defective, it will keep the heating from working properly. Thermostats that fail to close properly cause the room to be cold at all times.

What is the downside of underfloor heating? ›

Disadvantages of Underfloor Heating

Due to systems being a lot larger and more complex, installation times are also a lot longer than that of traditional heating systems. As underfloor heating operates at a low temperature, it will inevitably take longer to heat the room from the bottom to the top.

Should I turn off radiant floor heating in summer? ›

Underfloor heating can be switched off during Summer when the outside temperature is warm enough. This is because it takes longer to warm up and cool down than other heating methods, making it harder to adjust your settings when the outside temperature is warming your home.

What is the best temperature for radiant floor heat? ›

Radiant-floor heating systems typically use water temperatures of 85-140°F (30-60°C), compared with baseboard hydronic systems that typically operate at 130-160°F (55-70°C). At these operating temperatures, boiler life can exceed 45 years, according to information from DOE.

What is the cheapest way to heat a radiant floor? ›

Loose cable is by far the cheapest way to heat a floor and it's just as effective as the other systems. The drawback of loose cable is installation time; you have to position the cable in a serpentine pattern, fasten it with lots of hot glue or staples, and then “embed” it.

Do you need insulation under radiant floor heat? ›

Many people ask us if it's necessary to also install insulation below the radiant tubing, heat transfer plates, and reflective barrier. If you can only do this once because the ceiling will be finished then the answer is absolutely yes. The amount of insulation is dependent on what is above and below.

Can radiant floor heat freeze? ›

What happens if radiant floor freezes? One potential drawback to using water in a heating system is the potential for damage due to freezing. This could occur if the heating system failed or was switched off during extremely inclement weather.

Does radiant heat require maintenance? ›

Electric radiant heating systems do not generally need any ongoing maintenance or servicing. Once installed by a professional, they should not require frequent servicing, making them a hassle-free, underfloor heating option.

Can you heat a whole house with radiant floor heating? ›

Can radiant floor heating heat an entire house? We're happy to say that it absolutely can, in the right scenario, which is an exciting prospect, especially considering radiant heat's benefits of no air blowing (which reduces indoor allergies) and soothing whole-room comfort (no cold air pockets in your room).

Is radiant heating better in the ceiling or floor? ›

The heat transfer through convection is much lower with ceiling heating than with underfloor heating. This leads to less dust turbulence and fewer allergens in the room air. This is another reason why more and more hospitals are opting for heating and cooling ceilings.

What are the pros and cons of radiant heat? ›

Pro: Radiant heating is significantly more energy-efficient and evenly distributed in comparison to forced air systems. Con: Although operating costs are very small, particularly for installation throughout a home or commercial building, radiant heating can be expensive.

Is radiant heat bad for wood floors? ›

According to Mickey Moore, Technical Director of the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association, the temperatures used in floor heating will not damage the wood in any way.

Can you leave a heated floor on all the time? ›

It is advised that in the depths of winter, an underfloor heating system should be kept on at all times. Although it should be at different temperatures depending on usage and activity in the house. This is because underfloor heating can take two to three hours to warm up, so it is best to not completely turn it off.

How often do heated floors fail? ›

This plastic tubing can last between 30-50 years. However, since water must be heated and travel through the system, a boiler and a pump are also required. You can expect a boiler to last 15-20 years, but a pump may fail after ten years.

Is underfloor heating a fire risk? ›

If the Underfloor Heating System is damaged or not installed properly, fire or shock could occur resulting in serious personal injuries or damage to property.

What is the downside of hydronic heating? ›

Disadvantages of Hydronic Heating

Heated liquid must travel through the whole system, so it takes longer to heat a space. Since hydronic systems take longer to heat up, they are better when set at a consistent temperature. The need for extra space near convectors may interfere with furniture arrangement.

Can water damage electric underfloor heating? ›

#warmupsa underfloor heating products are perfectly safe, even if your house has been flooded!

How many square feet will a 1500 watt radiant heater heat? ›

As a rule of thumb, you will need 10 watts of heating power for every square foot of floor area in a room. This means that a 1,500-watt heater can be the primary heat source for an area measuring up to 150 square feet.

Is it safe to leave radiant heater on all night? ›

The best way to prevent a fire is to never leave a space heater running in a room unattended—that way, if anything does go wrong, you can take action quickly. If you have kids or pets that could knock a heater over or drape fabric on it, keep a very close eye on its operation.

Is it safe to sleep with a radiant heater on? ›

Do not ever leave the heater unattended. Avoid the carbon monoxide poisoning by turning off the heater and unplugging it before leaving the room or going to the bed. Signs of too much carbon monoxide in the rooms include headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, discomfort, vomiting, nausea and weakness.

Does radiant heat ever leak? ›

Modern radiant floor heating is built to resist leaks because they are fixed systems that do not permit oxygen to enter and degrade the piping. But leaks can still occur.

Is radiant floor heating noisy? ›

Forced air heating systems create a blowing noise that makes a sound in the background. As the forced air heating system cycles on and off, the noise in the background turns on and off. By contrast, radiant heat is silent heat, with no noise of air whooshing or blowing.

Is radiant floor heat expensive to run? ›

Because of the relatively high cost of electricity, electric radiant floors are usually only cost-effective if they include a significant thermal mass such as a thick concrete floor and your electric utility company offers time-of-use rates.

Can I put furniture on top of underfloor heating? ›

The one thing to be aware of is that any furniture used on top of underfloor heating should have a small air gap beneath it (around 30mm minimum) to allow the heat to escape. If your furniture doesn't have a suitable air gap beneath it then we suggest not installing underfloor heating in that area.

Is it cheaper to leave underfloor heating on constantly? ›

Grant's underfloor systems operate at their most efficient when they are not frequently switched off and on. This is because the floor screed takes time to heat up but, once up to temperature, it only requires a small amount of energy to maintain this condition.

What can go wrong with electric underfloor heating? ›

There are a few potential underfloor heating problems, which can be identified by pressure testing, that could be causing the system to rise in pressure:
  • The filling loop has been left on or is letting by. ...
  • There is a restriction in the UFH pipework. ...
  • Expansion vessel failed (diaphragm damaged)
Dec 1, 2021

How do you cool a house with radiant floor heating? ›

Gas or oil-fired radiant heating systems that require cooling can use super efficient mini-split systems for spot cooling or, again, go to a whole house cooling system (expensive). A better option is to use a geothermal or air-to-water hydronic heat pump that generates chilled water that can be used for cooling.

How do you winterize radiant floor heating? ›

Winterizing a radiant heat system is done by replacing water with antifreeze. Winterizing a radiant heat system keeps it from freezing when not in use or when exposed to temperatures that may cause freezing of regular water. A radiant heat system can be winterized with a special type of antifreeze.

Is radiant floor heating enough to heat a room? ›


The heating system goes right into the floor, heating water or using electricity in an infrastructure of pipes. While it generally is room-specific (i.e., for the kitchen or bathroom, where you are standing a great deal, or might be in bare feet), it is a viable and effective way to heat your home.

How much height does radiant floor heat add? ›

The electric wire or hot water tubes, as well as any insulation boards or underlayment, will increase the floor height anywhere from one-eighth of an inch to an inch. This can make a space feel smaller and impact many design ideas you might have.

How thick can a floor be for radiant heat? ›

The Launstein testing found that quarter-sawn planks up to 7 inches across (when properly installed) can work well with radiant heat systems. The testing also found that hardwood flooring that is three-eighths of an inch thick conducts heat better than thicker floors and resists gapping.

Should I turn down radiant floor heat at night? ›

Radiant heat should not be turned off at night. Harris is correct, the lag time is too great for this to do any real good. The amount of time that a radiant heat system lags varies depending on the thermal mass that the heating tubes are in, but could be anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

What is the R value of radiant flooring? ›

Radiant heating system panels, and their associated components that are installed in interior or exterior assemblies, shall be insulated to an R-value of not less than R-3.5 on all surfaces not facing the space being heated.

What is the R value under a heated slab? ›

1 a minimum R-10 (in units of h·ft²·°F/Btu) perimeter insulation but if it's heated an additional R-5 is required with the height/depth subject to climate zone. For commercial buildings, edge insulation of R 7.5 to R-20 is required for all heated slabs again depending on climate zone.

Can you put radiant heat under vinyl plank flooring? ›

In short, vinyl plank floors and radiant heating systems work exceptionally well together. There's no risk of damage, nor will you risk voiding your warranty. All you need to do is ensure that your heating system on average, won't exceed 80-85°F, as this is usually the safe temperature limit for vinyl plank flooring.

What are the disadvantages of underfloor heating? ›

Disadvantages of Underfloor Heating

Due to systems being a lot larger and more complex, installation times are also a lot longer than that of traditional heating systems. As underfloor heating operates at a low temperature, it will inevitably take longer to heat the room from the bottom to the top.

Is radiant floor heating worth it? ›

Energy-Efficient and Cost-Effective

With duct-based heating systems, you'll always have a bit of duct loss as well. However, with radiant heating, the floors are heated directly, resulting in less lost energy. Radiant floors are so energy efficient that they save an average of 15% on heating bills.

Does radiant floor heat increase home value? ›

Added Value

Many prospective homebuyers see radiant heat flooring as a value upgrade. Much like a renovated kitchen or bathroom, it can be sold as an improvement to an existing home. In a competitive market, it can even end up being the thing that cinches the deal.

Can you cool your house with radiant floor heating? ›

Radiant cooling systems have been embedded in the ceilings of adobe homes, taking advantage of the thermal mass to provide a steady cooling effect. Homes built on concrete slabs are prime candidates for radiant heating systems, and radiant floor cooling takes advantage of the same principle using chilled water.

Should underfloor heating be left on all the time? ›

It is advised that in the depths of winter, an underfloor heating system should be kept on at all times. Although it should be at different temperatures depending on usage and activity in the house. This is because underfloor heating can take two to three hours to warm up, so it is best to not completely turn it off.

Can you use a tankless water heater for radiant floor heat? ›

Though they are sold primarily for domestic hot water, tankless heaters are actually well-suited for radiant heating, which operates at low temperatures compared with, for example, hot-water baseboard. So using the unit for radiant heating generally has little or no effect on the sizing calculation.

What happens if something goes wrong with underfloor heating? ›

If your underfloor heating is not heating up and there is no sign of life on the thermostat then you need to check the electrical supply. One of the most common reasons for electric underfloor heating not working is that somebody has switched off the fused spur that supplies the underfloor heating with power!


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