Heating That Extra Space With Under Floor Radiant Heating

If you have an outdoor shed or a room addition that needs to be heated, under floor radiant heat gives you features you don't have with traditional furnaces or space heaters. Once installed, these systems are invisible, except for the thermostat. Here are some under floor technologies to consider when heating that extra space in your home.

Radiant Heat Versus Traditional Heating

A traditional gas or electric furnace works by forcing warm air into a room. The air is warmest right at the heat vent and cools off quickly the further away you get from the vent. Any obstacles in the room, such as furniture, block the air so you get hot and cold spots in the area. The warm air also quickly rises toward the ceiling, creating a cushion of higher temperatures near the ceiling than down near the floor, where the heat is really needed.

Each of these under-floor systems works on the principle of radiant heat. Radiant heat slowly warms the air on the floor, in all areas of the room. You get an even temperature throughout the room. The heat slowly rises, warming the air in the middle of the room as it continues toward the ceiling. The air cools as it rises and by the time the air has reached the ceiling, it has cooled enough to become heavier, making it settle to the floor, where it is warmed again. This creates a gentle circulation of warm air all through the room.

Types of Radiant Under-Floor Systems

The two primary types of under-floor heating are electric and hot water systems.

Electric Heat Cables - These cables come wound on a spool or woven into a mesh mat and are placed directly on the sub-floor. An electrician will space out the cables to get the best heat coverage under your floor surface. No special sub-flooring is needed and these cables can be placed under tile or natural stone flooring. The cables connect to a thermostat and can use 120 or 240 volts, depending on the amount of heat you need.

Electric Heat Mats - These mats contain the heating wires and come in different widths. They are rolled directly over the sub-floor and can have carpet, wood, tile, slate or vinyl placed on top. These mats are very thin and are low-voltage. They take longer to create an even heat in the floor. They are simple to install by an electrician.

Hydronic Heating Systems - This system uses small tubes of warm water under the floor to warm the room. The tubes are placed in a grid pattern on a  special sub-floor. Because of the moist heat produced by these systems, special flooring must be placed on top of the tubes, then your final floor covering can be installed. A hard surface such as wood floors and tiles work best with this system. The heated water can come from an existing water heater or a small, independent water heater made for hydronic flooring.

These alternative heating system are good for those small spaces, such as an extra work room in the house or a standalone shed/workspace in your yard. You'll have even heat that you can control independently of the heat in the rest of the house.