A homeowner installs radiant heating tubing in his home

Radiant heating systems are energy-efficient alternatives to standard forced air and space heating solutions. However, you still must weigh options carefully before choosing these units.

The cost is always one of the first considerations—so how much does radiant heating cost?

This article will go over various factors influencing the cost of running radiant heating solutions and which option is the most cost-effective to help you make the best decision.

How Much Does Radiant Heating Cost to Operate?

Radiant heating systems cost between $1-$7 per day to run. You can expect to spend roughly $1,700-$6,000 to run these systems annually. However, the exact figure will come down to the type of radiant heating and other variables, such as home size and the level of insulation in the space.

Cost is a critical deciding factor when weighing your heating options. Most people want the best solution at a competitive price.

Radiant Heating Cost Breakdown 

You’ll spend roughly $1,700-$6,000 to run a radiant heating systems annually. A hydronic heated floor costs between $15,000 and $48,000 for a 2,400-square-foot home, while an electric system costs $18,000-$36,000. These figures include installation, labor, and material costs.

On a national average, you’ll spend $3,800 for your radiant heating system and between $10-$16 per square foot to install it in your home. In some places, the system will cost up to $10,000 to operate.

Hydronic systems are cheaper to run because water sustains the heat for longer periods and requires less energy. However, the electric method is more expensive and will spike your electricity bills in winter when you have to run it all the time.

On average, you’ll spend between $1-$7 daily on running both systems. However, the costs of radiant heating systems differ depending on many factors.

Factors Influencing Radiant Heating Systems’ Operating Costs

Several factors affect the cost of radiant heating solutions.

These variables include:

Installation Type

When installing a radiant heated floor system in a new building, it’s easier to lay the pipes or cables beneath the ground in what’s called a “wet installation.” 

A homeowner installing a hydronic Radiant Heating system in the floor of a room of his home

On the contrary, installing a radiant heating system in an old building will be more complex and expensive. The installers will need to break the existing floor and reinstall a new one after embedding the cable. This retrofitting process is pricier. 

An alternative approach is a dry installation, which uses radiant panels on the wall or floor. During dry installation, installers may create subfloors where the pipes or wires lie between air spaces. This setup will demand higher temperatures to emit heat. 

Considering all the installation types available, the wet option is cheaper. It costs $8-$15 per square foot to complete in a new build. Unfortunately, installing the system in an existing home can cost up to $30 per square foot. 

Radiant Floor Heating Type 

Hydronic systems vary in operations from electric heating systems. However, both options will go through similar installation processes (wet or dry) depending on the building. 

Installing a hydronic system in a home will cost between $8-$24 per square foot, while an electric radiant heating system will cost $6-$20. 

The electric heating system is cheaper with installation options like heated mats and strips that don’t require breaking the floor. The price of cables and water tubes will also influence installation figures. 

There are different types of pipes for hydronic systems, but the high-quality water options are corrosion-free and durable. As you can expect, they’re more expensive. 

The electric cables also vary in price and strength. Some are stronger and more durable, while some are inferior. In the end, materials will have a pronounced influence on the overall cost. 

Closeup on a spool of electric radiant heating wire and its application in a floor

Heating the entire home comes at a higher price. As a result, some people opt for budget-friendly approaches like heating single rooms and bathrooms. 

For a 2,000 square feet area, you’ll pay up to $20,000 for a single zone. If you want to partition the system into different temperature zones, you’ll spend even more on this. 

Having two separate zones will require a new boiler which costs up to $28,000, while three zones will demand more insulation and a new boiler. You’ll be looking at figures between $35,000 and $40,000 for both systems. 

Square Foot and Floor Type 

The size of your home is another factor that can influence the cost of using a radiant heating system. It’s cheaper to install and run radiant heating in smaller houses.

You’ll naturally use more materials in bigger houses, and labor costs will also increase.

The floor type is also an essential factor to consider. You can install radiant heating on different types of floors. However, pricing will vary per floor type. 

Installation costs the cheapest on vinyl floors at $2-$15 per square foot. Concrete floor installations are also affordable at $4-$7 per square foot. 

Marble is the most expensive, with installation costs between $12-$65 per square foot. 

Labor and Materials 

Labor alone accounts for 50% of radiant heating installation budgets. Laborers charge between $8-$15 per square foot. And if you live in a large home, you should expect to pay even more. Labor costs also vary depending on your location. In some places, contractors can charge $75 per hour or more. 

Materials are generally affordable, and you can get discounts if you buy in bulk. For example, vinyl flooring is the cheapest at $2 minimum and $15 maximum per square foot. 

Clearing debris after the installation also consumes a part of the budget. Installations that require retrofitting will create more waste than new building installations. As a result, clearing them will take extra hours and more money. 

Location

The distance from the contractor’s location to your home can influence the installation cost. They will factor in the price of sourcing materials and transporting them to your house.

You should expand your budget to accommodate this factor if you live in a remote location. 

Heating Source

The heating source is a consideration if you intend to use a hydronic system—all electric systems source power from your mains connection. 

Hydronic systems require a water heater or boiler. However, for optimal performance, especially in colder areas, a regular water heater may not work. Instead, you’ll need a new boiler which can cost between $800-$1,450. 

Closeup of a hydronic radiant floor heating boiler and its attachments

You can heat the water that goes through the pipes in hydronic systems with solar energy. This approach makes the system even more energy-efficient. However, you’ll need a solar-powered water heating unit, and installing this unit will consume a sizable chunk of your entire budget. 

It’s a one-time installation that costs between $8,500-$20,000. The advantage is that you won’t spend as much on running costs as you would with other systems. 

Propane is another power source for a hydronic heating system and is more affordable than other sources. However, it requires the installation of a propane water heating tank that will send hot water to the pipes. A propane heating system will cost up to $2,600 to set up. 

Maintenance 

Electrical systems don’t need any form of maintenance. With the wires safely beneath the floor, they won’t need any replacement unless there’s an electrical fault. In this case, you’ll only need to fix the faulty area—there’s no need to replace the entire loop.

Hydronic systems will require maintenance a few times yearly, but that’s minimal compared to traditional heating systems. Occasionally, the boiler will need checkups to ensure it’s in good condition. 

You may get free inspections from your local HVAC contractor, but they will charge you money when there’s something to fix. If you have a new boiler, you don’t have to worry about costly fixes for a few years, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Cost of Setting Up Radiant Heating Systems

The cost of setting up radiant heating systems depends on the variant you choose to go with. While there are many radiant heating systems to choose from, the main two are hydronic radiant heating and electric radiant heating. 

Let’s go over these and the cost of a thermostat (which is essential for both systems) more in-depth below.

Hydronic Radiant Heating Materials 

A hydronic system will require a new boiler if your existing electric heater isn’t strong enough for the job. A new boiler will cost $2,000-$4,000.

You can also consider a tankless water heater which is a cheaper option. However, it’s best for smaller spaces. It costs between $1,500-$2,900. 

The water pipes cost between $0.80-$1.25 per foot. If you’re going for PEX pipes, they cost between $0.50-$2 per foot. However, PEX water pipes are more durable.

Closeup on some radiant floor cooling lines installed in a floor of a home

Electric Radiant Heating Materials 

The primary materials for electric heating systems are the cables which cost around $2-$4 per foot. Electrical mats are one of the more convenient radiant heating systems to install and cost between $5-$8 per square foot. 

Thermostat 

You’ll need a thermostat for both radiant heating systems. A thermostat regulates the temperature of the systems and reduces energy consumption in the process. While prices vary, you can expect to spend $100-$400 on a thermostat. 

How To Minimize Radiant Heating System Costs

Radiant Heating systems cost a lot of money to install, but once the setup is complete, you’ll spend less over the years. It’s about making a little sacrifice upfront for the great benefits in the long run. 

However, if you run a shoe-size budget and still want a radiant heating system, there are a few ways to go about it.

Limit the Installation Areas

For starters, you can consider limiting the installation to your bathroom and bedroom alone. 

You can also install the system only in parts of the home where you and your family spend the most time—no need to heat the entire house when you are barely in some areas.

Decide Against Retrofitting

One area of installation that consumes a significant part of the budget is retrofitting. For example, you’ll have to destroy the existing floor and install the pipes or wires before reflooring. 

An old school radiant flooring system partially covered by wood panel flooring

Yet, there’s a way to avoid this and minimize costs. Electrical mats and strips don’t need retrofitting. Instead, you can fit them into existing floors, and they still function well.

Compare Prices From Different Contractors

Another way to lower the cost of your installation is to compare prices from different contractors. From the quotes you receive, you can choose the most attractive. However, you have to be careful here. The standard approach is to go with the cheapest quote, but that’s not always a good idea.

A novice company with no experience installing radiant heating in your type of home will cost more in the long run if it mishandles the process. You may have to pay again for a fresh installation depending on the terms of the agreement.

Similarly, some contractors may have better warranties, maintenance packages, etc. So, read the fine print closely and seek advice from your local HVAC contractor when necessary. 

A safe bet is to choose an experienced company with prices around your budget and work out other minor contractual details with them.

Final Thoughts

Homes with radiant heated floor offers are super comfortable in the winter months. However, the installation and running cost may cause a raised eyebrow or two if you’re on a budget. Whether you choose a hydronic or electric system, prepare to pay up to $40,000 for setup and $7 daily for operation.

Exact prices will come down to factors such as: 

  • Location
  • Floor type
  • Installation type
  • Materials
  • Contractors
  • Retrofitting
  • Power supply

On the brighter side, these systems are super durable and energy efficient. Moreover, most of them pay for themselves in a few years.

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