There are many options for adding radiant heating to an existing home, including hydronic and electrical systems. However, hydronic systems offer numerous benefits and can often act as the primary heat source for a room. These advantages make them ideal for adding heating to previously unconditioned spaces, such as unfinished basements.
If you're planning on taking this approach, you have several options. The traditional method uses a vapor barrier, wire mesh, PEX clips and rails, and insulation. While this approach works, it can also be advantageous to use one of several radiant floor heating systems available on the market. These complete systems can simplify installation and offer several unique benefits.
What's Involved in a Traditional Radiant Heating Installation?
A standard method for installing radiant heating in a slab involves placing insulation on top of a vapor barrier and then using a welded-wire mesh atop the insulation as an attachment point for the PEX tubing. This method prevents moisture intrusion and improves the efficiency and responsiveness of the system by directing most of the heat upward.
This method works well but has a few disadvantages. One significant problem is that installation takes longer since the PEX must be tied or clipped or the welded-wire grid. Additionally, there's a substantial loss of height that comes from installing concrete over the insulation and PEX tubing. This reduction in ceiling space can be an issue with low basements.
What Are Radiant Floor Systems?
Radiant floor systems integrate most of the work of installing a slab-based heating system into modular tiles, often with unique joints that lock the tiles together. Each tile serves the same role as the foam insulation sheets used in a traditional installation while also including built-in methods for routing and mounting the PEX.
In most cases, the supports in the tiles that allow for PEX routing also act as structural supports. When the concrete is poured over the tiles to form the slab, the "knobs" in the foam tiles act as columns to lend strength to the final surface. These tiles also simplify installation since they don't require additional materials besides the PEX and vapor barrier.
Why Should You Consider a Radiant Flooring System?
Radiant flooring systems simplify installation, provide a method to consistently space hydronic heating circuits, and will generally work on any flat and level surface. If space is a concern, you can often pour a thinner layer of concrete when using these systems, allowing you to retain more headroom in low basements or other areas.
If you're considering adding radiant heating to your home, consider discussing these systems with your installer. You may discover that a purpose-built radiant heating system is a better option for your needs than a conventional installation.
If you are considering heater installation, contact a company such as Allied Mechanical & Electrical, Inc.