How Much Does Radiant Floor Heating Cost?
Radiant heat flooring is another great way to keep you warm in the winter. Radiant floor heating cost can vary depending on the system but averages $3,867 nationally, typically ranging from $1,687 to $6,032.
- Typical Range: $1,687 to $6,032
- National Average: $3,867
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. 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 impeding 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. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about radiant floor heating costs.
What Is Radiant Floor Heating?
Radiant floor heating is an alternative method of heating your home—or at least part of your 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 radiant floor 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 your home heating bill, 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 your 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.
Don’t focus so much on installation cost that you forget to calculate the cost of operating each type of system. The heating source can make a difference in cost: geothermal, solar, propane, and electric all come with different price tags. In addition to the size of the floor you intend to install radiant heating in, the type of flooring can also make a difference in the cost.
Where you live 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.
Floor Type and Size
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, vinyl is the least expensive, averaging $2 to $15 per square foot. Concrete is also relatively inexpensive, at $4 to $6 per square foot. Marble is at the top end, costing $12 to $60 per square foot. When contracting a project priced by the square foot, you can expect the price to be higher for more square footage.
Type of Radiant Floor Heating
There are two basic types of radiant floor heating: electric and hydronic. Electric systems cost between $8 and $15 per square foot installed, while hydronic systems average between $6 and $20 per square foot. 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.
Materials and Labor
The biggest percentage of radiant flooring cost is labor, which makes up about $8 to $12 per square foot, while the cost of materials is only about $1.50 to $2 per square foot.
Labor costs can be vastly different around the country, increasing the price considerably. The materials themselves can also vary widely in cost. Vinyl typically costs $2 to $15 per square foot, while hardwood floors can run $10 to $25 per square foot.
Location and Travel Distance
If you live in a remote area or at a great distance from the contractor’s headquarters, you 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 you pay.
Room of Installation
The reason the room you choose to install radiant heat flooring in 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 $11,200 to $31,000. Although a garage also usually has concrete floors, installation costs are significantly lower, averaging $8,064 to $17,856 because a garage offers easier access. Bathrooms and kitchens have the lowest average costs: $1,900 to $5,500 and $2,500 to $7,500, respectively.
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. 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.
Additional Costs and Considerations
When planning for a radiant flooring system, there are a few other potential hidden costs to keep in mind. For example, if you choose a hydronic system, you may need to install a water heater if your current model doesn’t supply enough.
If you decide to heat your entire house with radiant floor heating, you’ll have to come up with another way to cool your home in the summer. If you want to add radiant cooling, you may need supplementary equipment, such as a chiller and a dehumidifier. You’ll also need to consider the placement of a cooling system.
Whichever system you select, you’ll encounter 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 Installation
A hydronic floor heating system requires a water heater or boiler to heat the water that circulates underfoot. If your water heater is old, it and possibly the pipes may need replacing. Similarly, if your water heater isn’t of sufficient capacity to add the floor heating system, you’ll need a new one. Installing a water heater can run from $770 to $1,450.
Some radiant systems can be used for cooling as well as heating, although an under-floor system isn’t practical for cooling since cool air sinks. Instead, you’d want a geothermal cooler or chilling unit installed in the ceiling, which requires additional tubing. However, this will come at a price that could increase if you need to add a chiller or a dehumidifier. Alternatives include window AC units and ductless air conditioning.
Operation Costs and Maintenance
The two 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 between $1 and $5 per day. However, the size of your boiler and the type of fuel used to run it could alter that average. The typical 100,000 BTU gas boiler used with these systems cost just over $1 per hour to run.
If you opt for a hydronic radiant heat system, you might need to upgrade your water heater or add a boiler. Most likely, you’ll also need tubing. Other additional components needed for a floor heating system include a thermostat and brass manifolds. Some systems, such as solar and geothermal, have additional requirements, such as solar panels and pumps.
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.
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 $8 to $15 per square foot, 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.
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 an extra $6 to $20 per square foot. Throw in the added cost of a boiler or extra water heater, 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.
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 pump. The heat pump conveys a mixture of hot water and glycol (antifreeze) through a series of pipes underneath the floor.
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.
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 $6 to $20 per square foot. It is one of the most affordable sources of energy to heat the water used in a hydronic system.
Benefits of Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant floor heating offers many advantages, from savings to comfort. It’s quiet, energy efficient, and requires little to no maintenance. Plus, if you’re looking to sell your home in the future, a radiant flooring system can be a boon to potential buyers.
One of the first things you’re likely to notice about radiant floor heating is that it keeps your feet warm. But you’re also likely to notice that there are fewer drafts or cold spots in your home since the flooring replaces the burst of forced-air heat and subsequent cool drafts you feel 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 your home’s air quality, which can be especially beneficial for those with sensitive respiratory systems.
It’s possible to save on your energy bill by installing radiant floor heating. The cost of running it 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 air can, a hydronic system will allow you to reduce the temperature by 6 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit without loss of comfort.
Most radiant floor heating systems are virtually maintenance-free, and many come with a 30-year guarantee. If you choose a hydronic system, you may need to lubricate the bearings of the pump every few years. Boilers should be inspected annually and may require cleaning, lubrication of the bearings, and burner maintenance.
Home Value Increase
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 Cost: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
It’s possible to cut installation costs of radiant floor heating almost in half by doing the job yourself. The average square-foot price of professional installation plus materials is $11, while the cost of DIY-ing an electric system (including materials) is $6 per square foot and $2 per square foot for materials alone for a hydronic system.
However, it’s potentially dangerous due to the electrical aspect and requires some rather specific knowledge that most DIYers won’t have come across without special training. 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 you’ve selected. They’ll know if you need 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 your local laws, plumbing and electrical work might need to be completed by a licensed professional in order to comply with codes. The product you choose may also need to be installed by a licensed professional, or you risk voiding 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. Because they don’t heat the air and because there are no drafts from forced-air heating systems, you may feel warmer even with the thermostat set lower. Because heat rises, the warmth from the floor will rise through the room. Many homeowners see energy savings of 10 to 30 percent.
You may be able to save money on radiant floor heating systems if your current water heater heater is sufficient. Installing a new water heater costs $770 to $1,450. If your system can handle the additional duties, it will save considerable costs.
- Choose the right flooring to best conduct heat. 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.
- 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.
- If you’re retrofitting a radiant flooring system, consider going for electric. Hydronic systems are more difficult (and more expensive) to retrofit.
Questions to Ask About Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant floor heating tends to be a more energy-efficient method of heating your home. But with so many choices of flooring types and radiant systems, it can be an overwhelming decision to get the most out of your heating system. It’s important to ask your contractor what to expect and how much everything will cost to ensure you get the right system for your needs and budget.
- 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 maintenance do I need to be aware of?
The availability of so many options leads to numerous questions to determine the right system and flooring for your home and budget. While this guide has aimed to cover all there is to know about radiant floor heating, you might still have some lingering questions.
Q. Can I heat an entire house with radiant floor heating?
Depending on the system, you can. 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?
Many radiant floor heating systems use about 12 watts of electricity per square foot per hour to heat a room. If the cost of electricity is $0.1319 per kilowatt-hour, it would cost $0.00158 per square foot per hour to run an electric radiant floor heating system. Most homeowners see a reduction in their energy bills of 10 to 30 percent.
Q. What is the average cost of installing radiant floor heating in new construction?
In the typical 2,400-square-foot new construction house, the average price of a radiant floor heating system would be $19,000 to $36,000 for an electric system or $14,000 to $48,000 for a hydronic system. For individual rooms, the price is usually between $8 and $15 per square foot for electric systems or $6 and $20 for hydronic versions.
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.
Sources: HomeAdvisor, Warmup, Angi, Fixr, WarmlyYours, Forbes, NerdWallet, U.S. Energy Information Administration