Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Buying Guide

No one enjoys having to crawl out from a warm bed to tiptoe onto an icy floor. With hydronic radiant floor heating, you can have an energy-efficient floor that will eliminate chilly feet, create a healthier living environment, and significantly lower your utility bills. Learn more to get the warm floor you deserve.

Add Warmth & Value with Radiant Floors

Radiant heating has been around for centuries, but today's modern applications have a much more evolved design and installation process. But don't let the added complexity stop you from a valuable investment. Understand the inner workings of a radiant floor heating system, and you'll see how the benefits far outweigh the complexities and add substantial value to your home. 

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Basics

The process begins when either a boiler or geothermal system heats water that is pumped through tubing underneath the floor's surface. The heat generated from the hot water will then rise and warm the floor above.

There are three different ways to install hydronic radiant floor systems. While each method may go by a different name depending on a contractor's training, the process is still the same.

Dry Below

"Dry" below radiant floor heating (meaning without concrete slurry) has tubing installed underneath the subfloor from the room below. Metal plates are then installed as the tubing goes in. Before finishing the drywall from the lower room, enough insulation must be placed below the tubing to prevent heat from escaping.

Dry Above

In this method, the tubing is installed directly at the subfloor. The tubing is fitted into place through recessed plywood forms, and remains below the floor level.

In-Floor Radiant

The most efficient method is in-floor radiant, where the tubing is installed above the subfloor with gypsum concrete poured over it so the tubing becomes part of the floor. The flooring material is then placed on top.

This method gains efficiency because you can use a lower water temperature because there aren't as many layers to go through, and because it produces an even surface temperature and a larger thermal mass because it's set in concrete.  

Good to Know

Radiant floor heating works with any type of flooring material, but solid surfaces produce a better heat transfer. Regardless of the flooring material you choose, it's imperative to have the right amount of insulation underneath the tubing. Have at least three times as much insulation below the radiant tubing as you have above it to ensure the heat will go up rather than down.

The Design

In order to install a radiant floor heating system, first consider the home's design and solar gain potential because both can affect the process and complexity of the design. For example, separating the home or parts of rooms into zones can help make installing and using radiant flooring more efficient.

Look At The Structure Of The Home

Factor in when your home was built, how it was built to prevent heat load or loss, and what kind of insulation it uses. You can also use software to help calculate heat loss.

To design the system accordingly, figure out how you'll be using each room and how warm you want it when it's freezing outside.

Are Thermostats Necessary?

Most systems are installed basic with one thermostat to control an entire floor, which doesn't factor in solar gain (when one room on the floor is sunny, the rest of the floor goes cool). Radiant flooring isn't hot all the time unless you design it that way, Separate the system into zones to gain maximum benefit.

An ideal radiant flooring system has no thermostats, with an intelligent control system causing the system to react to what is needed. Instead of turning up the thermostat when you're cold, the sensors will take the inside and outside temperatures into account and adjust accordingly.

The Benefits

While the expense of an effective system may cost more than a traditional heating system, you'll be reaping the rewards for years to come. And if you don't feel like installing it yourself, talk to a Flooring Specialist in-store to have us take care of the whole installation process.  

More Even Heating

Because radiant heat comes from below, it heats the objects and people in the room instead of just the air. Everything in the room is the same temperature so you can sit by a window or door and not feel a draft.


Since there is no blower, radiant floor systems are quieter. The home's air quality is also significantly increased with the absence of a blower since no dust, dirt, or allergens are circulating throughout the air.  

Lower Heating Costs

By using an in-floor radiant system instead of opposed air, you can save as much as 30 percent in utility costs. It's a much more affordable and efficient way of heating your home.

Related Articles

Kids playing video games in basement

Basement Flooring Buying Guide

Learn which flooring is best for basements, the different types of subfloors, maintenance, and booking an installation in our Basement Flooring Buying Guide.
A cozy living room scene with a dark finish hardwood floor

Hardwood Buying Guide

Whether solid or engineered, birch, maple, oak, or another exotic species, hardwood flooring is always a great choice. Find out more with our Hardwood Buying Guide.
Apartment living area with a white couch and light bamboo flooring. Bamboo steps go up to a second seating area.

Sustainable Flooring Buying Guide

Learn about the benefits of environment friendly flooring, types of flooring, our installation services, and more in our Sustainable Flooring Buying Guide.