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Different uses for radiant heating systems

I’ve often been asked if radiant heating systems can be used as a home’s primary heat source or if it can only be used to warm up your floors. The answer – it can work for both!

Floor warming is basically taking the cold chill away from your floors, but still relying on the primary heating system to maintain the room’s temperature. Ninety percent of the radiant heating systems designs are specifically just for floor warming. However, our products can produce the amount of heat energy needed to properly heat your entire home throughout the winter.

A lot of our STEP Warmfloor system projects are designed for bathrooms and kitchens. However, our most popular project area is the area that is often the coldest area of the home: the basement family room.

Many of us have experienced “the cold basement syndrome” which occurs when the home is heated with a primary heat source like a forced air, gas heating system. The main level of the home is adequate (at best) in providing comfort to the occupants. However, when you check the temperature of the basement, it is not uncommon to see a temperature drop of 5-15°F. These applications are ideal for installing energy efficient STEP Warmfloor radiant heating systems to provide floor warming and comfort. Most likely, the added electric energy used to heat the space will be offset by the lower consumption of the forced air gas heating system. Typically, the homeowner will shut down the heat registers in this area and force the heat to the upper levels of the home.

Utilizing STEP Warmfloor electric radiant heating systems for primary heating can be accomplished very easily either as a retrofit into an existing home or at the time of new construction. The most important step is to calculate the heat loss of the area. This vital information will ensure that the system is designed to meet the heating needs of the house or room.

I often come across websites that say you need to have an electric radiant heating system capable of producing 15 watts per square foot or more to provide primary heating. Really? Who says?! I call this the “Tim the Tool Man Taylor” syndrome. If 12 watts/square foot are not enough, then crank up more power! Many people don’t understand that some of these cable systems produce output temperatures of 120-130° F. Wow! Good thing we have a floor covering over the top of them. What people don’t understand is that heat energy automatically transfers itself to cold areas – always. As we raise the temperature on the floor, more heat will be lost to the rooms or ground below.

Keep in mind that with cable radiant heating systems, we are also installing a great deal more energy into the floor than what is needed. What is needed you say? The answer is simply a calculated heat loss. Once the heat loss is determined, a system can be planned to meet the heating needs of the structure. Keep the 15 watts per square foot that some “so called” experts say you need to heat a home in the back of your mind while we look at a STEP Warmfloor system designed for a new home built in Minneapolis, Minn.

The heat loss calculation called for 7,300 watts on the main floor. An electric radiant cable system would need approximately 11,880 watts to heat the same square footage. That is a whopping 39 percent more energy than what is needed ticking up your electric bill. I didn’t even figure in that STEP Warmfloor self-regulates and will draw less energy as it warms up and operates at a low temperature. Why put more energy into a home than what is needed? It just adds more cost to install and operate the system.

Using the STEP Warmfloor product to create a primary heating system is energy efficient and reliable. I forgot to mention no maintenance. Hmmm… sound like an idea for my next blog.