Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Types of Radiant Heat Floor Installations

Radiant floor heating systems are one of the most energy efficient methods of radiant heat available. Each of the three types of radiant floor heat (electric, air, and water) can be installed using either a “wet” or “dry” installation method.

“Wet” installation methods include embedding the cables or tubing with a solid floor, such as a concrete foundation slab or a thin layer of concrete or gypsum installed over the top of a traditional wood subfloor. Additional floor support might be necessary because of the increased dead load of the materials.

Concrete slab floors have a high heat storage capacity. They do, however, have a slow response time, so it is recommended to maintain a constant temperature for maximum comfort.

“Dry” installation methods include having cables or tubing installed in the air space beneath the floor. This method is faster and less expensive than wet installation methods, but because the radiant heat now involves air space which is a poor heat conductor, the system needs to typically operate at higher temperatures or for longer intervals.

Tubing or cables can be installed between two layers of subfloor with aluminum diffusers to spread the heat across the floor evenly. They may also be suspended underneath the subfloor between the joists using reflective insulation under the tubes to direct the heat upward.

Types of Radiant Floor Coverings

What type of floor covering should you have with a radiant floor heating system? Any floor covering that separates the heating system from the room will decrease the efficiency of the system and affects fuel consumption. Some floor coverings, which act as heat conductors, are better than others.

Ceramic tile, quarry tile and stone are by far some the most common and most energy efficient floor covering because it transfers and stores heat effectively, however almost any type of floor covering can be used.

Carpeting should be minimal in the home. Where required, carpet should be thin and with a dense pad. Carpeted rooms should be zoned separately to ensure even heating throughout the home.

Most radiant floor manufacturers recommend laminated wood floors instead of solid wood, which reduces the possibility of the wood shrinking and cracking as the wood dries, however there are solid wood flooring manufacturers that do support installation of their products over radiant floor systems, observe the plank width limitations if they have them. It is important to follow recommended installation guidelines on any type of floor covering, but the stable even heat o a radiant system is typically considered a good environment for most floor coverings and an extremely comfortable type of heat for your home.