How Much Does Radiant Floor Heating Cost?
Radiant heat flooring is a great way to keep warm in the winter. Radiant floor heating cost can vary depending on the system but averages $3,831 nationally, typically ranging from $1,700 to $6,170.
- The typical cost of radiant floor heating installation is $1,700 to $6,170 with a national average of $3,831.
- Cost factors for installing radiant heat flooring can include floor size, floor material, heating system type, labor, installation location, site preparation, cleanup, and debris disposal.
- Installing radiant floor heating has many advantages including increased comfort, improved safety, better energy efficiency, lower maintenance requirements, and increased home value.
- Because installing radiant floor heating involves many complex components including electrical work, it’s generally recommended that homeowners leave this project to a professional.
Many homeowners don’t give much thought to radiant floor heating until cold weather strikes and their bare feet hit those cold bathroom tiles. That’s when many people wish they had installed this in-floor heating system. According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, a radiant floor heating system costs anywhere from $1,700 to $6,170, with most homeowners paying a national average of $3,831. This space-saving heating method provides consistent heat throughout all parts of the room, unlike many other forms of heating, such as radiators or forced air. And because it’s not blowing hot air around, radiant heat doesn’t stir up dust. Even heat distribution enables an almost unlimited furniture arrangement without worry about covering heat registers or dodging overhead drafts.
Floor heating systems were once considered a purely luxury feature, but today, more homeowners are discovering the benefits of installing a radiant floor heating system, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Homeowners will want to learn about radiant floor heating costs to determine whether to move forward with this project.
What is radiant floor heating?
For those who are unfamiliar with this kind of system, a brief explanation of radiant floor heating may be in order. Radiant floor heating is an alternative method of heating a home—or at least part of a home. Often relegated to bathrooms and kitchens, it’s an under-floor system that emits heat from the ground up, making floors pleasantly warm to walk on and eliminating drafts from forced air heat ducts or radiators.
There are two types of underfloor heating from which to choose: electric and water-based. Both provide consistent, efficient heat. A study by Kansas State University in conjunction with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) revealed that a radiant system could operate 25 percent more efficiently than a forced-air system.
Both water-based and electric systems can save as much as 15 percent on home heating bills, and they are compatible with all types of flooring and are relatively easy to install.
Factors in Calculating Radiant Floor Heating Cost
Floor heating can be pricey. Of course, the size of the room will impact the cost of materials and labor, but other factors can impact the price of radiant floor heating. First is the type of system chosen: electric or hydronic.
It’s important for homeowners not to focus so much on installation costs that the cost of operating each type of system is forgotten. The heating source can make a difference in cost, and geothermal, solar, propane, and electric all come with different price tags. In addition to the size of the floor where radiant floor heating will be installed, the type of flooring can also make a difference in the cost.
Where a homeowner is located may alter the price due to travel distance and labor rates, but also in scheduling a contractor during their peak season. The cost also depends on how much demo (if it’s not being installed in new construction or a renovation), site prep, and cleanup are required.
When homeowners are contracting a project priced by the square foot, it’s important to note that the price will be higher for more square footage based on the need for more materials and labor. For example, installing radiant heat flooring in a room that is 50 square feet will cost $300 to $1,250, whereas installing radiant heat flooring in a larger space of 200 square feet can cost up to $5,000. Very large projects of 2,500 square feet or more may cost as much as $62,500.
|Floor Size||Average Cost (Materials and Labor)|
|50 square feet||$300 to $1,250|
|100 square feet||$600 to $2,500|
|200 square feet||$1,200 to $5,000|
|500 square feet||$3,000 to $12,500|
|1,000 square feet||$6,000 to $25,000|
|2,000 square feet||$12,000 to $50,000|
|2,500 square feet||$15,000 to $62,500|
While radiant floor heating can be used with most types of floors, it will cost more to install the system under certain kinds of floors. For example, installing radiant heating under laminate and hardwood is the least expensive option, averaging $17.50 per square foot installed. Concrete radiant floor heating is also relatively inexpensive at $22.50 per square foot. Installing radiant flooring beneath floor made from tile and ceiling panels is at the top end of the price range, costing $30 and $55 per square foot respectively.
Heating System Type
The two most common types of underfloor heating systems are electric and hydronic. Electric systems cost between $19,000 and $36,000, while hydronic radiant floor heating systems average between $19,000 and $48,000. The ability to install the electric system as mats contributes to its lower cost. However, when it comes to operating costs, the hydronic system costs less to run because water retains heat for an extended period. Other options include geothermal, solar, and propane.
The biggest percentage of radiant flooring cost is labor, which typically costs between $550 and $2,500 in total. Labor costs can be vastly different around the country, increasing the price considerably.
Those who live in a remote area or at a great distance from the contractor’s headquarters may have to pay more for the installation because the contractor has to transport laborers and materials. If the contractor is located a significant distance from the materials supplier, that could also affect the price.
The reason the room where a homeowner intends to install radiant floor heating affects the cost is that certain rooms usually have specific types of flooring, which may cost more. For example, basements typically have concrete floors. The average cost of adding radiant heat flooring in a basement ranges from $10,000 to $30,000. Although a garage also usually has concrete floors, installation costs are significantly lower, averaging $8,000 to $20,000 because a garage offers easier access. Bathrooms and kitchens have the lowest average costs: $2,000 to $6,500 and $2,500 to $7,500, respectively. Heating a driveway uses a similar process to radiant floors, though the prices will be different; installing a heated driveway costs $3,000 to $25,000.
Site Preparation, Cleanup, and Debris Disposal
Site prep, cleanup, and disposal of debris can increase costs as well. Prep work can include digging, installing foam, and compacting. Removing the existing flooring in the room of the installation will cost about $60 to $120 per hour. The level of difficulty of that work will ultimately determine the final cost. Similarly, the amount of cleanup and debris to be removed will also affect the final bill. Disposing of debris runs $100 to $600 per truckload if done by a professional. If a homeowner chooses to handle disposal themselves, they will likely pay around $300 to $600 per week to rent a dumpster.
Additional Costs and Considerations
When planning for in-floor heating systems, there are a few other potential hidden costs for homeowners to keep in mind. For example, if a homeowner chooses a hydronic system, they may need to install a water heater if the current model doesn’t supply enough.
For those who decide to heat their entire house with radiant floor heating, it’ll be necessary to come up with another way to cool the home in the summer. Adding radiant cooling will require supplementary equipment, such as a chiller and a dehumidifier. It’s also important to consider the placement of a cooling system.
Whichever system is selected, there will be operating expenses. Ongoing operating costs tend to be slightly higher for electric radiant floor heating than for hydronic systems—just the opposite of installation costs. There is generally little to no maintenance cost with either system, although a hydronic system may require the boiler to be inspected and serviced every so often.
Water Heater or Boiler Installation
A hydronic floor heating system requires a water heater or boiler to heat the water that circulates underfoot. If the home’s water heater is old, it and possibly the pipes may need replacing. The best plumbing services charge about $45 to $200 per hour. Water heater repair costs about $221 to $964. Similarly, if the water heater isn’t of sufficient capacity to support the floor heating system, a new one will be needed. Residential boiler prices are around $5,678 on average. Installing or replacing a water heater costs $874 to $1,765.
Some radiant systems can be used for both radiant heating and cooling, although an under-floor system isn’t practical for cooling since cool air sinks. Instead, a geothermal cooler or chilling unit can be installed in the ceiling, which requires additional tubing. These systems also require the installation of a dehumidifier to prevent condensation buildup on ceiling panels, which has an additional cost. Alternatives include window AC units and ductless air conditioning.
Homeowners have two options when it comes to subflooring for their radiant heating systems. They can either opt for a custom layout or go with pre-fitted subflooring. Pre-fitted subflooring typically results in less work, and thus, a lower labor cost. It’s also worth noting that radiant floor heating adds about an inch in height to floors, so it’s important to account for doors, baseboards, and cabinets that may need to be moved. This may affect the subflooring options that are available for individual homes.
Operating and Maintenance Costs
Hydronic and electric systems have similar operating costs, although a hydronic radiant heat system often runs a little less expensive since the hydronic system retains more heat, so the system won’t need to run as long. In general, both radiant systems cost about $3 per day to run. However, the size of the home’s boiler and the type of fuel used to run it could alter that average.
Additional Thermostats and Temperature Zones
Establishing temperature zones in rooms with radiant floor heating allows homeowners greater control over when and how the system operates. For example, it’s possible to schedule the primary bathroom to heat up automatically in the morning, or the flooring in living spaces to heat up in the evening. Incorporating this feature will add about $1,000 to $15,000 to the installation cost, plus about $350 for a smart thermostat. Not only does this result in greater convenience, but it can also help homeowners save energy as the system will only be activated in spaces during parts of the day when they are occupied.
Types of Radiant Floor Heating
While the two main types of radiant floor heating are divided into electric and water-based, other systems can be used. Geothermal in-floor systems use thermal heat, transferred by heat pumps that circulate hot water through pipes. Solar radiant heat systems collect energy from the sun via solar panels, which then circulate a fluid to heat the floors. Propane under-floor systems use propane as the fuel source to provide heat. Each has its pros and cons, and each comes with a different price tag.
|Radiant Floor Heating Type||Average Cost (Materials and Labor)|
|Electric||$19,000 to $36,000|
|Geothermal||$9,500 to $27,000|
|Hydronic||$19,000 to $48,000|
|Propane||$2,400 to $2,900|
|Solar||$8,000 to $19,500|
Electric systems are often supplemental—not intended to be the sole source of heat in a room. Heating cables embedded in mats are laid under a tile floor, while a special heating mat can be laid under vinyl or wood floors. For a cost of about $19,000 to $36,000, electric radiant floor heating consists of either mats with embedded cables or just the cables strung through a grid. Using mats adds a premium but makes installation simpler. Because of the cost of operation, these systems are generally reserved for bathrooms, kitchens, and smaller rooms.
Geothermal radiant flooring is another form of hydronic heating, but it relies on thermal energy from the earth to heat the water instead of a water heater. The average price for a geothermal radiant heating system is between $9,500 and $27,000, thanks in large part to the cost of a geothermal heat pump. The heat pump conveys a mixture of hot water and glycol (antifreeze) through a series of pipes underneath the floor.
Hydronic systems are often used as whole-house heating, with PEX tubing running from a boiler or water heater under the floor. These are the most commonly used systems and are typically the most cost-effective to run. However, installation costs are usually higher than for electric systems, thanks to running pipes and potentially adding a water heater or boiler. The up-front costs of water-based systems can run two or three times more than an electric system or about $19,000 to $48,000. Throw in the added cost of a boiler or extra water heater (and the cost to hire a plumber to install them) and the price increases even more. However, operating costs are usually lower since hot water holds heat and thus reduces the amount of time needed to power the system for heat.
A propane water heating tank costs an average of $2,600, on top of the cost of tubing for the hydronic system and labor to install it—typically about $2,400 to $2,900. It is one of the most affordable sources of energy to heat the water used in a hydronic system.
About one-third of the cost of a solar radiant heat system goes toward the price of the solar water heating unit. Average cost runs from $8,000 to $19,500. As with other forms of solar power, the solar panels store energy from the sun, using it to heat a liquid that is piped through the tank before being circulated underneath the floor. The solar panels can add high costs to the project.
Benefits of Installing Radiant Floor Heating
While there are both pros and cons of radiant heat, this technology offers many advantages, from savings to comfort. It’s quiet, energy efficient, and requires little or no maintenance. Plus, for homeowners who are looking to sell their homes in the future, a radiant flooring system can be a boon to potential buyers.
One of the first things most people notice about radiant floor heating is that it is warm underfoot. Additionally, there are fewer drafts or cold spots in the home since the flooring replaces the burst of forced-air heat and subsequent cool drafts felt from radiators and furnace ductwork. Central heating can also dry out the air, making breathing more uncomfortable in the colder months—but this isn’t a concern with radiant heat flooring. Radiant flooring systems can be especially warming in places like basements and garages that are typically colder spots of the home.
Old-fashioned radiators stick out into a room and can be very hot to the touch. Vents on the floor can have sharp edges or get dislodged, causing a safety risk for a pet or child. Radiant floor heating systems are completely underneath the floor’s surface, so there is no tripping hazard to worry about. Another safety issue involves air quality. Since there are no vents, there’s no air circulating and possibly stirring up dust, debris, and allergens. This will improve the home’s air quality, which can be especially beneficial for those with sensitive respiratory systems.
Better Energy Efficiency
Is radiant floor heating efficient? Yes, it is indeed possible to save on energy bills by installing radiant floor heating. To compare radiant floors vs. forced air heating, the cost of running radiant floors nonstop for 24 hours is about $3, compared with $20 to run a traditional heating system for the same amount of time. And because water can hold 3,500 times the heat that air can, a hydronic system will allow a homeowner to reduce the temperature by 6 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit without loss of comfort.
Low Maintenance Requirements
Most radiant floor heating systems are virtually maintenance-free, and many come with a 30-year guarantee. For those who choose a hydronic system, it may be necessary to lubricate the bearings of the pump every few years. Boilers will need to be inspected annually and may require cleaning, lubrication of the bearings, and burner maintenance.
Increased Home Value
Installing a radiant floor heating system provides a good return on investment. In general, radiant heating can cost 25 to 50 percent less to run and maintain. Because its life expectancy is 30 to 45 years—double or triple the life of a forced-air furnace—it’s even more economical. A programmable thermostat increases energy efficiency. These energy-efficient systems are a popular luxury feature with homebuyers.
Radiant Floor Heating Installation: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
It’s possible for homeowners to cut installation costs of radiant floor heating almost in half by doing the job themselves. The average square-foot price of professional installation plus materials is $11, while DIY radiant floor heating (including materials) is $6 per square foot and $2 per square foot for materials alone for a hydronic system.
There are radiant floor heating kits on the market aimed at DIYers. However, this job is potentially dangerous due to the electrical aspect and requires some rather specific knowledge that most homeowners won’t have come across without being trained on how to install radiant floor heating. The benefits of hiring professionals begin with the knowledge they bring. They can provide advice about whether the flooring type works well with the radiant heat system that has been selected. They’ll know if it is necessary to insulate under the floor components to avoid heat loss. Professionals also tend to complete the job more quickly than most DIYers can.
Depending on local laws, plumbing and electrical work might need to be completed by a licensed professional in order to comply with codes. For example, it will be necessary to find someone who installs water heaters professionally to take care of this part of the project if a homeowner decides to install a hydronic system. The radiant floor heating product may also need to be installed by a licensed professional in order to not void the warranty.
How to Save Money on Radiant Floor Heating Cost
While paying for radiant flooring is a big up-front cost, the big savings come with time. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 51 percent of a home’s annual energy consumption goes toward heating and cooling. Radiant floor heating systems can significantly lower energy bills. Many homeowners see energy savings of 10 to 30 percent. However, it may take some time for homeowners to see this return on their investment. Fortunately, there are a few additional ways that homeowners can save on underfloor heating costs.
- Choose a conductive flooring material. The U.S. Department of Energy indicates that ceramic tile is the most effective flooring for radiant heat systems. Other types of flooring may not conduct heat as well, meaning that you may not get the maximum savings on your energy bills.
- Be selective about locations. Limit the area you install radiant flooring to critical areas, such as bathrooms. If you use your garage or basement a lot and heat doesn’t hold well in those spaces, it may also be worth it to get radiant flooring installed there, too. Less square footage to cover means less cost to bear.
- Shop around. The first company you contact may not offer the best price or all the services you’re looking for. Do some comparison shopping for the best overall deal.
- Opt for an electric system for a retrofit. Hydronic systems are more difficult (and more expensive) to retrofit.
Questions to Ask About Radiant Floor Heating Installation
Radiant floor heating tends to be a more energy-efficient method of heating a home. But with so many choices of flooring types and radiant systems, it can be an overwhelming decision to get the most out of a heating system. It’s important to ask the contractor what to expect and how much everything will cost to get the right system. Homeowners will also want to get some information about the contractor they hire to ensure they are the right fit for the job.
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you have any references?
- Will I need to have a new heat source installed?
- How long will the job take?
- Which kind of heating do you recommend for my home and needs?
- What additional costs might there be?
- Is there any new technology on the market I should be aware of?
- Are you licensed and insured? (Licensing requirements will vary depending on your state and the type of work being done.)
- How many people will be required for this job?
- What kind of warranty do you offer?
- Will you take care of cleanup and debris disposal?
- What kind of maintenance do I need to be aware of?
The availability of so many options leads to numerous questions to determine the best radiant floor heating system for a homeowner’s home and budget. While this guide has aimed to cover all there is to know about radiant floor heating, there might still be some lingering questions.
Q. Can I heat an entire house with radiant floor heating?
Depending on the system, yes. Hydronic systems are better equipped to heat a whole home. Electric systems are better suited for heating single rooms that need extra warmth. However, hydronic systems are also harder to retrofit into an existing home and are best installed in new construction.
Q. Do heated floors use a lot of electricity?
A radiant floor heating system uses less energy than a traditional heating system, such as a furnace. Homeowners can expect to pay around $3 per day to run an in-floor heating system all day, compared to $20 per day for a traditional heating system.
Q. What is the average cost of installing radiant floor heating in new construction?
In the typical 2,500-square-foot new construction house, the average price of a radiant floor heating system would be $15,000 to $62,500. Homeowners may choose to install heated flooring in certain rooms only to save money—installing radiant heating in a bathroom will cost $2,000 to $6,500, for example.
Q. What’s the difference between radiant floor heat and baseboard heating?
Baseboard heating vents are located on the lower half of the wall and are usually part of a forced-air heating system that pushes heated air into the room. Radiant heaters are installed under the floor and powered by electric coils or water tubes. They radiate heat upward without air blowing.
Q. Is radiant floor heat efficient?
Radiant floor heating can warm up a room at a temperature 40 percent lower than traditional heating systems would need. Hydronic systems tend to be more efficient because water holds more heat, so the system would use less energy. Adding a programmable thermostat can increase the efficiency of the system. Zoning is another way to increase efficiency by directing more heat to larger rooms.
Q. What type of floor is the best for radiant heating?
Radiant floor heating is compatible with just about every type of flooring, but some are more compatible than others. In general, ceramic tile and stone are the best types of flooring for use with radiant heating systems because they transfer heat more efficiently. Other types of flooring, such as wood, laminate, vinyl, carpet, rubber, and concrete, usually take longer to heat up, so they are often less desirable when paired with radiant heat.
Q. How long does floor heating last?
Most radiant floor heating systems typically last an average of 20 to 35 years before needing repair or replacement. Individual components have different lifespans. For example, the tubing and coils generally last 20 to 35 years, while boilers last about 15 to 20 years.