4 Reasons Designers (and Design-Savvy Homeowners) Love Radiant Heat
Can you enjoy comfort without any aesthetic compromise? Read on to understand how an efficient heating system can open up your options in a renovation or addition.
When you’re ripping out flooring and fixtures to update your living spaces, aesthetic details are obviously important. But as you’re reimagining your home, think beyond the obvious and focus on the unseen, on something that professionals often recommend incorporating into a renovation or new construction: radiant floor heating. You may never have considered the fact that your choice of heating system can affect the look and feel of your redesigned rooms. But once you’re aware of the aesthetic possibilities of radiant heat, you’ll never look at a return-air register in the same way again. For complete freedom of design, architects, interior designers, and in-the-know homeowners opt for radiant heat over traditional forced-air systems. Keep reading to discover why designers love radiant heat and how this unobtrusive heating system can help you achieve your design goals.
1. Radiant heat panels go in with ease, speeding projects along.
Two big concerns for anyone embarking on a remodeling project are how long it will take and how complicated it might be. Updating a forced-air heating system during a renovation can slow down progress. The process can be difficult and the results may detract from the aesthetics of your revitalized space. If you’re trying to work within the existing walls, joists, and foundation, your contractor may be left with the undesirable option of running ductwork along walls or ceilings and then camouflaging it with soffits or other build-outs. This is not an optimal look, to be sure, nor an easy process to live through.
In contrast, radiant floor heating can be installed in a modular system of panels for a much more seamless integration. If you’re replacing floors anyway, it takes hardly any more effort to install an upgraded heating system at the same time.
Industry leader Warmboard makes the job especially easy for homeowners with the company’s Warmboard-R panels. These slim, 13/16-inch-thick panels install easily over an existing subfloor without significantly raising the level of the floor. The process couldn’t be simpler: Once you’ve settled on the floor plan for your remodel, the company will use your layout to design a system that will support the layout and then devise scale drawings that identify panel and tubing positioning for the system. Local framing and plumbing subcontractors can then install the radiant panels and connect them to the hot-water system. After the panels are in place, you can install your choice of finish flooring.
2. Radiant heating panels work beneath most types of flooring.
Radiant-heat systems typically operate by flowing heated water through tubing laid out in patterns beneath the flooring. As mentioned, these very thin panels make it quite easy to place the flooring of your choice on top of the panels without raising the level of the floor too much.
It’s worth noting, however, that not all radiant-heat systems are the same. Some of the less efficient systems on the market rely on poured concrete, which isn’t as conductive and therefore much slower to respond while requiring higher temperature water to warm up a space. The high heat and uneven surface temperatures can damage more delicate types of flooring, such as vinyl and hardwood, so not all flooring manufacturers advise installing their products above such radiant-heat setups. Indeed, in some cases, doing so might void a warranty! Read the fine print closely before you choose your flooring and your radiant-heat system. Selecting a system that offers improved efficiency can open up options.
Hydronic radiant-heat panels from Warmboard are so conductive that water running through them can be heated to lower temperatures while still delivering comfortable, even surface temperatures. As well, the lower temperature water allowed by the system’s efficient design poses less of a risk to the flooring installed above it, making everything from hardwood to carpeting fair game. Whether you want solid wood parquet, exotic bamboo, luxurious carpeting, marble, or ceramic tile, you can have the look you love and radiant heat too!
3. Practically invisible, the system won’t detract from your home’s style.
Whether you prefer the classic look of rich walnut floors and hand-carved furniture or you crave the contemporary vibes of sleek cabinetry and onyx accents, you probably don’t appreciate the visual intrusion of radiators and floor registers. One of the joys of radiant heat is the fact that the system meets comfort needs without detracting from the aesthetics and flow of a space. You can design your interiors without having to worry about placing furnishings to avoid wall vents that can’t be blocked or radiators that can’t be moved.
Not only is radiant floor heating completely invisible, but it also won’t intrude on your peace and quiet. Forced-air furnaces are notorious for making loud noises when the blower kicks on, and as the ducting warms up and then cools off, the sheet metal is prone to emitting startling cracks and pops. Radiant heat, in contrast, is both out of sight and noise-free, so it won’t disrupt the mood that’s been so carefully set through decor and furnishings.
4. Radiant-heating systems efficiently heat rooms with high ceilings.
Prospective buyers prefer ceilings that are higher than the standard eight feet, and dramatic cathedral and vaulted ceilings are especially valued for their sense of spaciousness and grandeur.
These lofty architectural features, however, come with a definite downside: Because hot air rises, these dramatic spaces can be tough to heat. With traditional forced-air heating, hot air blasts into the room and heads straight upward, carrying most of the heat with it. The air near the ceiling may be warm, but the rest of the room remains chilly, and the space near the floor where people actually live can be downright cold. Essentially, homeowners are paying to heat the ceiling.
With the rising cost of utilities, if you have a traditional forced-air system, it can be cost-prohibitive to heat rooms with high ceilings. During some seasons, homeowners might refrain from using such energy-draining rooms at all rather than having to pay to keep them comfortable. Or, homeowners might give up their dream of towering ceilings and exposed beams, or even install a dropped ceiling to counteract these heating inefficiencies.
With radiant floor heating, though, homeowners can have the high ceilings they covet while maintaining consistent comfort and enjoying lower utility bills. Here’s how it works: As the panels beneath the flooring heat up, the floor warms first, and then the gentle warmth radiates through to the items that touch the floor, such as chairs, sofas, and the feet of the room’s occupants. The heat is gentle and—if you choose an especially efficient product, such as the highly conductive panels from Warmboard—consistent throughout the entire room. You don’t experience the cold spots or drafts that are typically associated with forced air. You just experience comfort.
If you have—or long for—high ceilings and an uninhibited floor plan, you’re in luck. With radiant heating, you can have the spacious atmosphere you’ve always dreamed of while maintaining the comfort that makes it possible to enjoy every room in every season.
This article has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.