Are Radiant Floor Heating Systems Practical for Green Homes?

Pros & Cons to Radiant Floor Heating Systems-

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The concept of radiant floor heating dates back thousands of years, originated by none other than the ancient Romans. This form of heating is much more efficient than forced-air systems because no energy is lost through ducts. Additionally, with no moving air, radiant heating can be beneficial for families suffering with indoor allergies. Modern radiant floor heating systems use hydronic (liquid-based) technology, in which warm water circulates through plastic tubing embedded in a floor slab or attached to the underside of sub-flooring. This method is extremely cost-efficient and eco-friendly, in that it requires little electricity to operate. The hydronic systems can also be heated using standard gas, oil or wood-fired boilers, solar water heaters, or any combination of these heat sources. Besides electricity savings and reduced flow of allergens, there are several more benefits to radiant floor heating. According to the Department of Energy, since these systems use much lower temperatures, boiler life can exceed 45 years. Not to mention, this heating alternative is not noisy or obtrusive like traditional forced-air systems. However, while radiant floor heat is compatible with certain buildings, it is not always the best choice. More modern, highly-insulated green homes have a very tight building envelope and much smaller heating capacity, so even a limited amount of heat can cause overheating. This is especially common in buildings with a passive solar gain, as the radiant floor will deliver heat even after solar gain raises the air temperature. Likewise, with a minimal heating load, the radiant slab temperature must be set at no more than a few degrees over room temperature to prevent overheating. These systems aren’t cheap either. The technology and equipment can cost around $10,000 for a typical home. Larry Drake, executive director of the Radiant Panel Association in Loveland, CO, says that the radiant floor heating systems are of much less benefit in high-performance buildings. “The tighter the envelope, the less the amount of savings of a radiant system,” he told EBN. To find out more information on radiant heat flooring, visit EnergySavers.Gov.

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