Heated flooring is a very attractive luxury to have in your home, especially if you live in a climate with prolonged cold weather. It can be a wonderful feeling to put your bare feet on a warm floor when you get out of bed, or when you step out of the shower.
The average cost to install radiant heat is $8-12 per square foot and depends on the size of the space, type of heating (electric vs hydronic) and complexity of installation.
In-floor heating are a quiet and efficient way to warm up your space where it counts the most, without having to spend a fortune on your heating bill. Radiant heat works well pretty much with any type of flooring, even carpet.
Radiant heating is one of the most desirable and coveted remodeling updates. However, many people mistakenly think its an unaffordable luxury, so they never bother to find out the true cost of radiant flooring.
How much does it cost to install radiant floor heating?
While radiant floor heating is considered a luxury feature of high-end homes, its actually surprisingly affordable.
There is a very wide price range when it comes to the cost of installing subfloor heating. It really depends on the size of the space, and whether you want to have an electric or hydronic system installed. On average, homeowners spend $650-800 to install subfloor heating in small room or a bathroom.
The most economical way to add in-floor heat is by installing an electric heated floor mat, flex roll, or cables. These can be strategically placed in specific areas, instead of through out the house, thus significantly cutting total costs. Electric heating mats and flex rolls range is price from $10-12 per square foot, and can be customized to fit the room’s configuration and size. Another advantage is that a DIY savvy homeowner can easily install these as well.
Yet a cheaper electric floor heating option is to install electric cables with fixing strips. These cost as little as $5-6 per square foot, and can also be custom configured based on your needs.
Homeowners report spending $0.20-0.35 per day to run electric heat for 4 hours a day (2 in the morning and 2 in the evening) in an 8×10 bathroom space.
Heated floors can get expensive when you opt for hydronic (tubing with hot water) floor heating, because it has to be done in the entire house. Expect to spend $6-8 per square foot if you already have hydronic heating with radiators in your home. However, if you are looking to install a new boiler system, you cost can be $6,000-11,000 or more, depending on the size of the home.
You should be aware that one of the biggest risk of installing hydronic subfloor heating is a pipe freezing and bursting. To avoid this hazard consider installing more expensive PEX tubes, which are designed to prevent leaks.
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Bathroom radiant floor heating
Many homeowners that can’t afford to install a whole house in-floor heating system, choose to just have it in the bathroom. This is actually an affordable upgrade, especially if you are already doing a bathroom remodel.
The average cost of installing electric radiant flooring in a 100.sq.ft. bathroom is $700-850. Pricing for tile floor heating runs $5-8 per square foot Typically, electric mats are installed, as this is the easiest retrofit to complete, if the house is not already equipped with a boiler.
This electric mat can be controlled by a thermostat, so it doesn’t have to be on all the time. Reported operating electricity costs for heated floors in the bathroom are equal to the operating cost of 3 100W light bulbs – not expensive!
Electric floor heating installation options
An electric radiant flooring system is designed to be a complementary source of heat in a particular small space, ( a room or a bathroom). Electric heated floors are typically not installed throughout the entire house, or used as a primary heat source.
Because electricity operating costs are high, radiant electric flooring comes with programmable thermostats, which you can turn on/off to save on heating costs.
Its important to note that electric heating mats will not make the floor feel “warm” or “hot” during the cold winter months. Rather the floors will feel “neutral” to the touch, which is very pleasant.
There are few installation options available, depending on your needs and type of floors:
Loose electric cables – this is the cheapest way to heat your floors. The cables come in a spool, and you can choose how close or far apart you want to set them. The closer they are the faster the area will heat up and the warmer it will be. The cables need to be fastened either by hot glue or staples.
Then, they need to be embedded either onto a tile backer board ( cover with thin-set) or installed directly onto the subfloor with self-leveling compound poured over it, to achieve a smooth surface. Overall, the biggest downside is a very consuming, labor intensive installation, which may negate the savings on the materials. Another big downside is that the cables can cost 2-2.5 times more to operate than electric mats.
Electric resistance cables attached to a mat – these are installed over the subfloor. The mats need to be set in place with a layer of thin-set mortar. Then, the floors are typically finished with tile either ceramic or stone. This type of electric radiant heat is most effective in the bathrooms or kitchens.
Electric floor heating mats – these work well under floating floors, such as bamboo, engineered wood, or laminate. These mats are simply taped in place under the floating floor, which makes the installation very fast and simple. One of the biggest advantages of the electric mats is that they can be either fixed sizes, or made from flexible mesh, allowing you to customize the layout according to your needs. This means that you can easily work around a kitchen island, shower stall, etc.
Electric radiant floor underfloor heating pads – if you are on a tight budget and don’t want to dismantle your flooring, you can install these underfloor mats between the floor joists. A huge advantage is that they can be installed under any type of flooring, even nailed down hardwoods. These pads can increase your floor temperature by as much as 15°F. The only requirement for this system is that there must be access from the basement of crawl space to reach the joists.
Hydronic radiant heat installation
A hydronic system is usually installed throughout the entire house. It provides the most uniform and comfortable heating compared to other options. Your home will be free of drafts, dust, allergens, or uncomfortable cold zones, where the heat has not reached.
Hydronic heating is also a lot more efficient and cheaper to operate compared to other systems. This is because water is the best element for conducting heat and keeping the warm temperature. In fact, water can hold 3,500 times more heat than air can. Therefore, your system operating time is actually reduced. Moreover, it can operate at a lower temperature, compared to electric or forced air systems.
The system works by heating water in a boiler to about 100-120°F, which then circulates through tubing installed under floors. There are several installation options available:
– Embedded in a slab of concrete subfloor
– Stapled under the subfloor
– Fitted inside specially designed subfloor panels – this is the most expensive but also the most effective type
of installation that is best at preventing potential leaks.
Compare electric vs hydronic floor heating
There are distinct pros and cons to both electric and hydronic infloor heating systems. Consider your personal preferences when it comes to comfort and warmth as well as budget.
Here is a chart that compares the main differences between electric and hydronic radiant flooring.
|Hydronic Radiant Heat||Electric Radiant Heat|
|Total Cost (materials and installation) for 1,500 sq.ft.||$9,000 – 12,750 if the rest of the system is already in place||$15,000 – 18,000|
|Cost per square foot (materials and installation)||$6 – 8.5||$10 – 12|
|Operating cost||$4.5 – 7 per month||$8 – 14 per month|
|Cost to install radiant heat in an 8×10 bathroom||Typically not done as an exclusive install||$750-1,000|
|Ease of installation||Difficult||Easy|
|Possibility of DIY install||No||Yes|
|Use as a primary heating source||Yes||Not recommended|
|Use in a single room, such as bathroom or kitchen||Too expensive and troublesome to install||Ideal for a single space|
|Retrofit installation||Challenging and expensive||Easy|
|New construction installation||Best case scenario that saves on labor costs||Easy|
|Turn system on/off at different times of day||Possible, but the system is usually on all the time||Yes, easy with a programmable thermostant|
|Feel of the floor||“warm”||“neutral” as opposed to cold|
|Initial time to heat up the floor after installation||Up to 7 hours||30 – 60 minutes|
|Repairs||Challenging and expensive||Easy and cheap|
Types of flooring best designed for radiant heat
Radiant heat works well with virtually any kind of flooring, such as: hardwood, vinyl, ceramic, stone or concrete tile. If you are replacing old flooring, you might as well as spend a little extra and add in radiant heat.
While its possible to install radiant heating pretty much under any type of flooring, some floors will be much better at retaining a pleasant warm temperature than others.
Natural hardwood flooring – works well, with the only downside being the gradual expansion and contraction of wood planks as they come in contact with rising warm air. To minimize this issue, its recommended to install shorter length planks or strips, as opposed to long ones.
Laminated or engineered wood – works well and does not have the expansion/contraction issue. Sometimes, an HVAC professional may recommend that you install engineered wood instead of hardwood, if you have high moisture levels in your home. This way, the floor will be less prone to cupping, bowing or warping.
Linoleum/marmoleum – some types of these floors may emit harmful fumes upon coming into contact with warm air, and may therefore not be compatible. Its best to contact your flooring manufacturer to find out if they would be a good fit for radiant heat.
Ceramic or porcelain tile – one of the best flooring options for radiant heat. There a double advantage because ceramic tile both conducts the heat well, and also stores it for sometime after. This means that ceramic radiant flooring will always be very pleasant to the touch.
Stone tile (marble, slate, travertine, granite) – this is another type of flooring ideal for radiant heat. Natural stone will store rising heat for the longest amount of time, compared to other materials. While it will take initially a long time to warm up, it will remain warm for many hours to come.
Carpet – this is not the best option for heated floors, because carpet has strong insulating properties. As a result it will actually prevent the warm air from rising through the floor. In fact, rooms are covered with carpeting precisely to keep the flooring warm without requiring extra heat.
Cork – similar to carpet, cork has very strong insulating properties and is relatively warm to the touch on its own. Therefore, there is really no need to install radiant heating under it.
Is radiant heating right for your house?
If you are debating whether radiant floor heating is right for your home, keep the following considerations in mind:
– Radiant heat operates quietly, invisibly and effortlessly. No ugly radiators, crackling noises, dust, or dry air.
– If you have high ceilings, you are wasting a lot of heat and energy, because heat rises to the top of the room, while the lower half remains cold. Heated floors will help you not only feel much warmer, but also save you a lot of money on your heating costs. You can turn the main thermostat down, and enjoy the immediate heat emitted from the floors.
– Unlike with other heating systems, there is no regular maintenance required with either hydronic or electric radiant floors.
– In a small bathroom, its very easy and inexpensive to retrofit the floors and install radiant electric heat.
– If you have a large master bathroom and want to save money, you can install radiant electric mats in strategic places when people spend the most time standing: near the shower, around the toiler, and near the vanity.
– In a cold climate, it can be very pleasant to step onto a warm floor, anywhere tile is installed. These spaces include: the foyer/entryway, bathroom and kitchen.
– If you are already replacing your floors or doing a gut rehab of the house, its a very easy remodeling project to tack on, that will go along way in adding extra enjoyment every day.
– In a new construction house, radiant floor heat is very easy to install because there is no existing flooring. This way you can save money on labor having to remove and replace existing flooring.
– When it comes time to sell your house or condo, having heated floors will be a very attractive high-end feature for buyers. It can boost the sale price and make the sale go faster.