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Heating a dog house with underfloor radiant heat

It’s a dog’s life.

Be honest, now – how many guys out there have been “in the dog house” a time or two over the course of your marriage? Perhaps some of you have been left in the dog house permanently – or worse – brought to the dog pound to find a new home or be put down! OK, OK; this is where the wives start to chuckle, and think, “hmmm…”

Regardless of your situation, there is a solution to make the dog house a little more comfortable – both for you and your pets!

I know people that go to extreme lengths to enhance the life of the family’s pet. And hey, they’re worth it.

I may have had an epiphany when I embarked on making two new dog houses for my little buddies (think flux capacitor epiphany!). Who in their right mind would think about placing an electric radiant floor heating system in their dog house? Me – that’s who!

Basically, I selected a siding color that would match the siding on our home. I prepared the floor by insulating underneath it with 1” of polystyrene foam board insulation. The walls and ceilings were done with fiberglass – a blanket-type insulation. I proceeded to install two 3’ strips of STEP Warmfloor heating mat over the sub floor. Keep in mind that I did not completely cover the floor with the heating element as this gives the pet an option to move off of the system if they choose to. I made the easy connections to the heating element and ran the wires below the floor of the dog house to the outside of the structure. I finished the floor with a thin ¼” wood underlayment (like birch wood) and screwed it down directly through the STEP Warmfloor heating element. I wired the safe, low voltage heating element to an inexpensive 24 volt transformer that I bought from Radio Shack. (Check out the diagram below for a simple diagram of the STEP Warmfloor “dog house heating system.”) That’s as simple as it gets.

The system is under the floor so we don’t need to worry about the dogs chewing on the heating element. Even if they did figure out a way to chew through the floor, the low-voltage power needed to operate the heating element will not harm them. In spite of the fact that low voltage systems are a little more expensive than the high voltage pet warming systems you find at big box stores, the energy efficiency and safe operation made it a clear choice for this pet owner.

What makes the STEP Warmfloor heating element unique is its ability to reduce its thermal output based on temperature. When the dog is lying on the floor of his little doggie oasis, his body is producing a certain temperature output. The STEP Warmfloor heating element will only add the amount of heat needed to give the dog the optimal amount of comfort. Keep in mind we are working with a dog house that is not thermally insulated or air sealed like that of a typical home in Minnesota. The dogs will not be experiencing 70 degree temperatures.

In the winter, I like to humor myself by taking temperature readings of the dog house floor and compare that with the outside air temperature of the dog kennel floor. I have seen a big difference between the two: the dog house floor temperature has been at 45° F, while the concrete floor of the dog kennel was at 7° F. As I looked at the dogs, I observed a hint of a smirk coming from their cute little faces!

A concern pet owners have is that having the animal exposed to consistent heat will cause it to lose its fur, as it does not need as much fur to keep it warm. The heat is so gentle that my dogs have never experienced fur loss in the cold winter months. I kind of wish the golden retriever would lose some of his fur because he looks like a grizzly bear by the end of winter.

I often tell friends and customers that when I look into the dog houses I see the dogs hanging out, drinking margaritas and enjoying the warm bath of the house’s internal sun.

The last time my lovely wife put me in the dog house, I thought it would be OK to check-in to one of the nice ones I made for my dogs. After all, they were retrofitted with underfloor radiant heating. To my surprise, I snuck into the dog kennel and was taken aback by the new signs outside each of the houses. They read, NO VACANCY!

At my house, it truly is a dog’s life.