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The number of people that attend home improvement trade shows never ceases to amaze me – especially when you factor in the state of the economy.

However, with help of the Internet, consumers are more aware of the wealth of products that they can use to enhance the quality of their homes. As a downside to this, they also can easily become overwhelmed by the number of products available. I believe that this is where the trade shows come in. They are an excellent source of information and can help consumers make choices that best suit their applications.

Because of this connection, I thought it would help you get a better understanding of our STEP Warmfloor heating product if I touch on the questions that we get from trade show attendees. Of course, this blog can’t list all of the questions we receive, but I will try to cover those that are most frequently asked and answer them so it may help you understand the STEP Warmfloor product in more detail.

Q – What is it? A – STEP Warmfloor is an electric radiant floor heating element comprised of a mat that is 12” wide and 3/64” thick. It is a low voltage, semi-conductive heating element that works under carpet, tile and wood. The product also self-regulates, which makes it 250 percent more energy efficient than electric cable systems and 200 percent more efficient than hydronic or water-based radiant heating systems. You can nail or staple directly through the heating element to affix it to the floor without compromising the integrity of the heating element.

Q – I wish I would have installed this product under my kitchen floor when I refinished it. Is there a way to still provide heat to the wood floor without re-installing it?A – Absolutely. You can install the STEP Warmfloor heating element from beneath the existing sub floor. That’s provided, of course, that you have access to the sub floor from below. This method is referred to as a “staple up” application. This method of installation can be done under any sub floor. The heat will be transferred directly through the existing tile, carpet or wood floors. The key to the heat performance and comfort is to install insulation between the joists so the radiant heat will transfer through the sub floor and through the finished flooring. Radiant heat moves in all directions so it is important to direct it the way you intend to feel it. The best insulation to use for this type of application is either Kraft faced fiberglass rolled insulation or rigid insulation that is at least 1.5” thick. The rolled blanket insulation will be easier to work with.

Q – Does the product work under carpet? If so, does it get installed over or under the carpet pad and will I be able to feel the heating element, wires or connections? A –Yes, the product does work under carpet. The STEP Warmfloor heating element is designed so it will never overheat and fail. Unlike inefficient electric radiant heating cables, the STEP Warmfloor heating element is capable of self-regulating its output and can never reach temperatures above 82°F. Electric cables are not suitable under carpet as they will overheat, which can lead to premature failure. The STEP Warmfloor product should be installed under the carpet pad. This will help spread the radiant heating between the designed spacing of the elements strips laid down on the floor. The pad acts as a radiant heat sink to absorb and spread the heat through the carpet. The carpet pad will act as a cushion so you will not be able to feel the wires or crimp connectors. In fact, we have never received a complaint from a customer or contractor regarding this issue.

Q – I have never seen this product before, how long has it been on the market? A – Believe it or not, STEP Warmfloor was developed more than 30 years ago. It was first marketed in Europe to heat automobile seats and was brought to the U.S. in 1994 where it was marketed for floor heating uses. Today, the product is manufactured in St. Louis, Missouri and has gained popularity in recent years with the help of distributors like showcasing the product at trade shows. The main reason we feel the market growing more today than in past years is that the trade contractors and homeowners alike want a reliable product that will not fail after it has been installed under a floor. Additionally, consumers have been appealing to the energy efficiency of the product. Without question, it will cost 2.5 times less to operate the STEP Warmfloor system than an electric cable radiant floor heating system.

Q – Speaking of the cost to operate, what would you estimate the cost of operation to be for my kitchen, which is approximately 460 square feet? A – There is a lot of information to take into account when estimating the cost of a system’s operation. What is your electric utility’s rate? What will be the set temperature of the thermostat? What is the heat loss of the structure (how well the home can retain its heat energy in the winter)? Also one needs to consider the lifestyle of the occupants, so that’s a tough question. Depending on the insulation level in a home, here in Minnesota the STEP Warmfloor heating product will cost approximately $0.60-0.80/square foot/year to operate. This is based on an average electric rate of $0.10/kWh.

Q – Is your product easy to install, and can I install it myself?A – Absolutely. The STEP Warmfloor product is easy to install, and you can do it yourself. First of all the product is low voltage. A typical weekend-DIY-warrior would not feel intimidated by installing the safe-operating low voltage system. With the aid of a dimensional drawing that you provide of the room you’d like to install STEP Warmfloor in, will design a unique system for each and every installation. It will include a wiring schematic and instructions along with how the element should appear on the sub floor before the finished flooring is installed. Depending on the size of the project, you can expect to install a bathroom system in less than a day, and a family room or kitchen system over the weekend.

If you would like to hire a contractor, also has trained, authorized contractors that are available to install the heating element and or wire the electrical power to the transformer.

Q – Does your product work over concrete floors or does it have to be installed within the concrete like the hot water tube systems? A – The product can be installed in or over the top of an existing concrete floor. In fact, we design and sell more STEP Warmfloor systems that are installed over the top of a concrete floor for basement applications than we design and sell systems for bathrooms! This is a perfect application to fully utilize the basement and transform it from being the coldest room in the home to the most comfortable. We highly suggest insulating the existing cold concrete floor with some thin insulation products that we sell here at before installing the STEP element. Radiant heat travels from hot to cold so it is important to insulate the floor and transfer the heat through the finished floor. For new construction projects, the STEP Warmfloor heating element would be installed over 2” of rigid insulation followed by 4” of concrete.

Q – This is a typical follow-up question regarding concrete floor applications: My basement occasionally has standing water in it. Will that ruin your product?A – The STEP Warmfloor system is designed so that if water penetrates the flooring material, it will short out the heating element. This is only temporary as the safety low voltage transformers circuit breakers will trip and protect the heating element. Once the basement floor dries, the heating element will work normally once again.

Q – I notice on your display that the elements are spaced differently depending what floor covering it is under. Why is that?A – That is a good observation. The elements are spaced apart from one another for a couple of reasons. If the system is designed for providing floor warming rather than total heating, the elements are spaced apart from one another based on the floor covering that will be installed over the STEP Warmfloor heating element. Tile, for instance, transfers heat very easily. Therefore the element will need to be spaced no more than 2” apart so you’ll feel no cold spots between the elements. Wood flooring typically is spaced approximately 3-5” apart. The dimensional thickness of the wood floor planking will determine its density and how heat will transfer through it. The thicker the wood, the more distance in inches the spacing can be. Carpet and pad on the other hand will help spread the heat between the spacing of the heating elements. Typical spacing under carpet applications is 5-7”. On a cost per square foot basis, the carpet applications will run less material cost as the spacing is farther apart than a tile floor.

If the application is for total home heating, then the spacing of the heating elements is based on the amount of heat in watts or BTUs that is needed to sustain a certain designed temperature inside relative to typical outside temperatures. This is why we conduct a heat-loss assessment. Do it right, and do it once!

Q – What does the material cost?A – The cost of an average STEP Warmfloor system is anywhere from $12-14- per square foot. We understand that this is higher than our electric cable competitors. However, when you factor in that the product is 250 percent more efficient and will provide a return on investment in a few years, it is clearly a superior choice when compared to electric cable systems. Furthermore, the reliability of the product is backed by a 20 year warranty and comes with the peace of mind that the product is physically impossible to over-heat. Combine this with the safety aspect of a low-voltage system and the simplicity of the installation and STEP Warmfloor is one of the best electric radiant floor heating systems available today. The question you have to ask yourself is: What price are you willing to pay to replace your electric cable system when it fails? Like I said before: Do it right, and do it once.