Customers often have questions about how radiant heating systems work, or about radiant heat in general. Here are some common questions and answers:
The Radiant Floor Heating System can be installed with as many or few separate heat zones as you wish. Generally, it is recommended that you establish separate heat zones for each room in the house, each controlled with a separate thermostat from the others. This is easy to do and common practice for heating contractors.
One of our radiant floor heating systems greatest advantages is its compatibility with all floor coverings, including hardwood, due to its very gentle and even heat distribution. While some other radiant floor heating systems have been reported at times to create concentrated “hot spots” or “striping” that cause hardwood to expand and shrink, Ultra-Fin™ eliminates striping with its consistent, even heat. As a result, our radiant heat system works just as well with hardwood floors as it does with carpet, tile, slate, and virtually any other flooring you can imagine.
To ensure success with hardwood, the most important step is to take special care during the installation of the hardwood flooring, carefully following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Here are some of the installation tips to remember:
The Ultra-Fin Radiant Floor Heating System™ is specifically designed for standard wood frame construction, so you don’t need to make any changes to the basic engineering or construction methods or materials in your floor framing. Radiant floor heating systems that use concrete slabs will often require additional engineering and special construction measures to support their heavy weight, but this is not the case with our radiant heating system.
Some common questions and answers about radiant heat and radiant heating systems in general:
Radiant heat is produced by infrared energy that is transmitted from a heat source in the same way that heat energy travels from our sun. (The sun doesn’t warm us with its visible light – it warms us with the infrared energy that is just below the visible light spectrum, the “light” we can’t actually see.) Infrared energy moves through the air and converts to heat when it strikes a solid object, such as a person, sofa, book or table.
Forced air heating systems use an oil, gas or electric furnace to heat air, then they blow that heated air around the house through ducting. Occupants of the home experience “warmth” by coming into contact with the warm air. Radiant heat is different in that it does not heat the air per se, but generates invisible infrared radiant energy which then heats objects in the room (such as people) when it comes into contact with those objects. There are numerous advantages to radiant heat over forced air heat:
1. When you open an exterior door, your heat does not float out the door like it does with forced air – the heat is in your floor, not in your air, and your floor is still inside your home.
2. With radiant heat, there are no fans, blowers, or air movement, so dust and other allergens are not blown around the home.
3. Because radiant heating systems heat the occupants directly, and not the air, radiant heat systems are immediately more effective in providing direct comfort than central air heating systems.
4. Because hot air rises, most of the heat from a central forced air system ends up at the ceiling, not in the lower half of the room where people are. Radiant floor heating systems, on the other hand, radiate their most concentrated heat in the lower half of the room.
Radiant floor heating systems consistently cost less to operate than forced air systems. Cost savings depend on the region, the severity of the winters, heat losses in a home (windows, doors, etc.), insulation, fuel source, and the layout of the system to optimize the control in different heat zones. Radiant floor heating systems are generally reported to save 25% to 35% in operating costs over central forced air systems.
Hydronic heating systems generally heat the water with electricity or gas, but there are alternatives. A popular concept of recent decades is the ground-source heat pump, where the ambient heat energy of the earth is extracted and used to heat the water using coils buried deep in the ground. Further in the past, radiant heat systems have used boilers fired by coal and wood, but these are no longer considered practical heat sources for an increasingly carbon-conscious society.
Central forced air systems rises to the ceiling, so if the house has high ceilings, virtually none of the heat stays with the building occupants. By contrast, radiant floor heating systems produce heat from the floor upwards, heating the objects in the lower half of the room with infrared energy.
Radiant floor heating systems can vary significantly in how quickly they respond from a cold start. For example, the Ultra-Fin Radiant Floor Heating System™ responds very quickly compared to concrete slab radiant floor heating systems. Concrete slab systems can take up to a day to reach operating temperature, due to the fact that they must heat the large thermal mass of concrete before occupants experience any heat. By contrast, the heat from Ultra-Fin™ moves through standard wood frame floor systems very quickly, simply because the heat has no where else to go, and there is no concrete blocking the heat’s path.
Hydronic radiant heat systems circulate hot water through piping around the home, so these systems require boilers, pumps and valves. Boilers and pumps are the items most likely to require maintenance over time. Boilers and boiler components will eventually “wear out” just as hot air furnaces eventually wear out and need replacing, and pumps generally have a life span of about 10 years.
BTUs (British Thermal Units) are a standard unit for measuring the amount of heat energy provided by a heat source. Specifically, one BTU is the amount of energy required to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.