Heated Floors – What Every Homeowner Should Know

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heated floors

Imagine stepping onto a warm, heated floor on a cold morning – that’s what electric heated floors aim to provide you with. Electronic radiant floor heating use a 15 or 20 amp electrical circuit, wired directly to their own thermostat. They’re made up of a series of wires, often embedded in mats, that are installed directly beneath your flooring. They warm the floor, and therefore the people and objects in the room directly, providing consistent, even and comfortable heat that can allow you to lower the thermostat and use less energy in that area.

heated flooring
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Electric heated floors are generally designed to be supplemental heating systems, installed in single rooms where you want to have added heat, without the added expense of running your HVAC system at a higher rate. Used alone or with another heating system, electric heated floors can provide you with the comfort of warm floors underfoot.

The Benefits of Electric Heated Floors

heated floor installation
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Electric heated floors can help you stay more comfortable, with fewer cold spots and drafts in the room. Because the floors work by heating you directly, rather than heating the air, you stay warmer even when the room air temperature is lower, which can save you energy and money on forced hot air.

Because they don’t use ducts or blow air around, you not only get more even heat and coverage, you also have fewer allergens circulating through the house. This means better air quality, as well as better comfort and energy savings.

Comparing Heated Floors to Traditional Heating

Heated floors work differently than other forms of heating. Radiators and forced hot air both work by heating the air in a room. The hot air rises toward the ceiling, then cools and falls toward the floor. This creates very inconsistent temperatures in the room, with warm and cool areas depending on where the heat is coming from, how it’s circulating through the room, and where the heat is in its cycle.

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Heated floors work differently. They stay consistently warm at all times, heating the people and objects in the room directly. They don’t heat the air, so there is no rising and falling of heated air throughout the room, which means that the temperature of the room stays more consistent. Because you’re being heated directly by the floor, you can often set the thermostat lower than you would when using other methods of heating. 

Electric heated floors are often used as supplemental heating forms for this reason; they allow you to stay more comfortable while your main heating system can be turned down, saving you energy and money, while you remain warm.

Heated Floor Installation

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Electric heated floors are fairly easy to install. Most are available in the form of mats that have the wires or cables threaded through them. To install, you begin with a clean, dry substrate that is ready for your final flooring choice. 

The mats can be installed using a thinset mortar, like the type used with tile, or they can be placed on an underlayment, depending on the type of system you choose. You can also use a system of membranes and wires, using the membrane to hold down the wires by looping the wires back and forth across the floor. An electrician will then hardwire the heating system to a thermostat.

Ideally, however, every installation you undertake will be done with the type of flooring material and the location of the system.

Radiant Heated Wood Floors Installation

heated floor wood
Image Credit: Floorheat.net

If you choose to install electric radiant floor heating beneath wood floors, you will need to use a floating wood floor, or a wood floor that connects the planks to each other, and not to the floor itself. For best heat transmission, a foil mat is the best choice to install beneath the wood. 

This is laid on top of an insulated underlayment, which is first placed over your subfloor. The mat is rolled out over this, and your floor is installed on top. 

Installing Heated Floors Under Tile

Installing Heated Floors Under Tile

Tile and stone floors work very well with electric floor heaters. The mats can be laid over a floor compound or a layer of thinset, and a second layer of thinset is used to install the tile directly on top of the mat. You will need to make sure that you choose a system that is designed for use with tile floors, to ensure that the mat can handle the weight of the material and the installation style.

Heated Laminate Floor Installation

heated flooring cost

Laminate floors should be treated like wood floors when it comes to electric floor heaters. You will need to float the laminate over the mat, and a foil mat is the best choice. The mat should be laid over an insulated underlayment to help ensure that you don’t lose heat, particularly over a concrete substrate. Your laminate can be installed right on top of the mat in the same way that it would be installed over any other substrate.

Vinyl Heated Floor Installation

Vinyl floors come in a wide range of styles and installation types. They can all be used with electric in floor radiant heat systems, either cables and membranes or mats. If you have click-lock vinyl floors, these can be floated right over the mat; vinyl floors that require adhesive should be installed in the same manner as a tile or stone floor with the electric mat first installed using a compound or thinset, followed by the vinyl being installed on top of the mats.

Heated Carpet

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Foil mats and electric cables with membranes can both be used directly beneath carpet. Carpet makes a great insulator and can provide a warm, soft floor. The foil mat or the membrane are laid first over an insulating underlayment, and the carpet can be stretched and tacked on top in the same manner it would be installed in any other project.

Radiant Heated Concrete Floor

Concrete floors make excellent additions to industrial and contemporary style spaces. And a new concrete floor can have an electronic radiant floor heating system installed right inside it. The key is to use a system of wires that are laid in the center of the slab. The floor can be 2 – 4-inches in depth, with the wires laid in the middle. This may need to be done in a two-pour system, meaning that the floor is poured in two courses, with the wires laid in the center. 

If you have an existing concrete floor, you can retrofit electric heat into it, by using a membrane and wire installation, and pouring a new floor on top. 

Heated Flooring Installation per House Area

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Electric radiant heat floors can be installed in many areas of the home. Most will have similar installation styles, but care does need to be taken in wet areas. 

Heated Bathroom Floor Installation

Heated Bathroom Floor Installation
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The bathroom is one of the most common places to install this type of radiant floor heating system. It can be installed in the shower, the bathroom, or a wet room. The key is using either a mat-style system made for use with tile, or with uncoupled wires installed over a membrane. In either case, the system should be installed with mortar to ensure the best use.

Bedroom Heated Floor Installation

heated floor installation cost

Bedrooms are also common spaces for this style of heating system to be installed. The key is to make sure that you pair the system you choose with the right type of flooring. For example, bedrooms most commonly use hardwood and carpeting, and both flooring styles work best with a foil mat over an insulating substrate.

Living Room Heated Floor Installation

Living rooms are another area you may wish to add supplemental electric floor heating. Like with bedrooms, the most common living room floor materials include wood and carpeting, as well as laminates. All of these should be installed with a foil system over an insulating substrate.

Kitchen Heated Floor Installation

kitchen heated radiant floor
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The kitchen, like the bathroom, is an area that may see moisture. Therefore, it’s usually recommended that you treat it like a bathroom in electric floor heating installations. Use uncoupled wires with membranes or a mat designed to be used with tile to get the best installation.

Basement Heated Floor Installation

Adding in floor heat to the basement makes a great choice when finishing this room. Any type of electric floor heating system can be used there; just make sure to pair it with the type of finished floor you install. 

Heated Floor Costs

Electric heated floors can have a range of costs, depending on the system you choose. Uncoupled wires with a membrane are the least expensive material, at roughly $5 a square foot, but often cost more to install. Mats particularly those designed to fit a specific area, can be more expensive, costing up to $30 a square foot. However, mats are much easier to install, and can cut down on labor costs. 

Altogether, the average cost of electric heated floors costs around $20 a square foot, installed, plus the cost of the flooring. Keep in mind that the wires or mats are not usually laid right to the edge of the room, but are typically installed where you are most likely to be walking, standing, or sitting.

Safety Concerns on Heated Floors

heated flooring radiant
Image Credit: MisterSparky-Houston.com

Many people wonder about the safety of having electric in floor heating. When installed properly, this type of flooring is very safe, with most manufacturers having long warranties of 30 years or more on their products.

The wires and cables used in the system are designed for use in this manner, and the only consideration needs to be making sure that you use the right type of system with your chosen flooring, particularly when using them in wet areas like bathrooms or showers. 

Treat Yourself to Warmer Floors

Electric in floor heating can help make any room of your home warmer and more comfortable, often for less money than turning up your existing system would cost. Make sure you understand your options when it comes to electric floor heating to get the most from your installation.

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