Radiant floor heating systems are energy-efficient alternatives to standard forced air and space heating solutions. They are becoming popular choices for both homes and garage spaces. But how much do they actually cost to use?
When choosing a heating system, cost of operation is a big concern. Let’s take a loot at the costs associated with radiant heat.
How Much Does Radiant Floor Heating Cost to Operate?
Radiant heating systems typically 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, climate, and how well insulated the building is.
The two main types of radiant floor heat are electric and hydronic.
Electric radiant heat utilizes metal coils that emit heat through the floor.
Hydronic radiant heat uses hot water piped beneath the floor to heat it. These systems require boilers to heat and circulate the water.
Radiant Floor Heating Cost Breakdown
You’ll spend roughly $1,700-$6,000 to run a radiant heating system annually.
As far as new installation costs go, 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. Keep in mind that electric heating will have a little higher operation 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, while more expensive to install, are cheaper to run because water sustains the heat for longer periods and requires less energy. If you have a large area to heat, a hydronic system might be a better choice.
Factors Influencing Radiant Heating Systems’ Operating Costs
Several factors affect the cost of radiant heating solutions.
These variables include:
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”. This is the cheapest option.
Installing a radiant heating system in an old building will be more complex and therefore, 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.
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, along with the flooring materials, which could cost 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. Unsurprisingly, it’s cheaper to install and run radiant heating in smaller houses.
The floor type is also an essential factor to consider. You can install radiant heating on different types of floors. However, pricing will vary.
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.
On the other hand, materials are generally affordable, and you can get discounts if you buy in bulk. Vinyl flooring is the cheapest at $2 minimum and $15 maximum per square foot.
Prices often vary by location. This includes both equipment and labor. If you live in an area with a high cost of living, you can expect prices for in-floor heating to be higher.
The above figures are averages. Every home is a little different. The only way to get truly accurate pricing is to call around to your local HVAC companies. Not all HVAC companies do in-floor heating installations, so you’ll want to do your research.
The heating source is a consideration if you intend to use a hydronic system. Electric systems source power from your main electrical panel.
Hydronic systems require a boiler. This is what heats and circulates hot water under your floor. Most boilers use natural gas, making them cost effective.
If you are in a rural area, you can even use a wood-fired boiler for in-floor heating. Though, you will need to cut, stack, store and stock wood for it.
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.
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.
The one major downside of hydronic systems is what happens in the event of a burst pipe or a leak. Repairs can be costly in this situation.
How To Minimize Radiant Heating System Costs
Limit the Installation Areas
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
Electrical mats and strips don’t need retrofitting. Instead, you can fit them into existing floors, and they still function well. This could be an option to consider.
Compare Prices From Different Contractors
Get several quotes from different contractors. Ask for their opinions on how to keep costs down but don’t always go with the cheapest option.
Make sure the company you choose is licensed, insured and has experience doing in-floor heating.
And don’t forget to ask about warranties and maintenance packages.
No matter which way you cut it, in-floor heating installs are not cheap. It is a big investment, no matter which form you choose.
Generally speaking, hydronic in-floor heating is more expensive to install but cheaper to run. It is better for heating large areas (entire homes, garages, etc.)
Electric in-floor heating is cheaper to install but more expensive to run. This could be a good option if you only want to heat certain areas of your home (bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms).
Which one is best for you will depend on the setup of your home and your heating needs.