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

A radiant heating system provides heat directly to the floor or the panels on the ceiling or walls of a home.

To a large extent, these systems depend on radiant heat transfer, the delivery of heat directly from the warm surface to objects and people through infrared radiation. Radiant heating is the impact you feel from the warmth of a hot stovetop element across the room.

When a radiant heating system is placed on the floor, it is often referred to as a radiant floor heating system. 

Radiant floor heating offers plenty of benefits. It’s more efficient than baseboard heating and generally more efficient than forced-air heating as it prevents duct losses. In addition, people with allergies typically prefer radiant heat as it doesn’t distribute allergens like forced-air systems.

Radiant systems consume little electricity, which is a considerable advantage for off-grid homes or homes located in areas where electricity prices are high.

But, you may be curious to know precisely how much electricity these heating systems consume.

If you’re planning to invest in electric radiant floor heating, continue reading this article to find out.

How Much Electricity Does Radiant Floor Heat Use?

Most electric radiant floor heating systems consume 12 watts every hour per square foot. This figure amounts to 1,200 watts per hour for a 100-square foot room, or 300 watts less than the average space heater.

In place of PEX tubing to conduct water, an electric radiant floor heat system uses electrical cables that work like the resistive components in electric space heaters, even though they don’t get nearly as hot. 

The mechanisms of an electric radiant floor heating system in a home

A radiant floor heating system won’t only cost less to operate in this situation but would also heat the room evenly. In contrast, a space heater would make one part of the room considerably hotter.  

The radiant floor heating system’s cables can be powered by a 240 or 120-volt electric circuit—a 120-volt is better for smaller floors. On the other hand, a 240 volts circuit is better suited for larger spaces.

A 240-volt system draws lower current levels than a 120-volt system to attain the same level of power. 

How to Calculate the Electricity Costs of a Radiant Floor Heat System

You can easily determine the power needed to heat a specific area by following the steps listed below.

  1. Determine the square footage of the heated area in your house by multiplying the square footage of the entire room by 0.9
  2. Now multiply the result you got in step one by 12, as most radiant floor heating systems consume 12 watts per square foot. 
  3. Divide the total watts by 1000 to determine the kilowatts the radiant heating system will use every hour. 
  4. Lastly, multiply the number of kilowatts used every hour with how much the electricity provider charges per kilowatt in your area. For reference, the average US residential electricity rate is around 14.47 cents. 

What Factors Impact the Running Costs of Radiant Floor Heating?

Several factors can impact the cost of running a radiant floor heating system.

Some of these variables include:

The Price of Electricity 

A critical aspect you should consider is the price of electricity per kilowatt in the area you live. It’s undoubtedly worth an email or call to your electricity provider to learn how much they’re charging per kilowatt in your area. 

Size of the Room 

The size of your room plays a vital role in the electricity consumed. The bigger your room, the longer you need to run the heating system to heat the space effectively. This operation leads to increased electricity consumption. 

A radiant floor heating system installed on a living room floor

Floor Insulation or Underlayment 

Investing in the appropriate insulation for your electric radiant heating system can improve efficiency.

Note that insulation will prevent heat from getting lost in the subfloor underneath. In addition, insulation will push the heat upwards to your floors and then pass them on to the space above.

When you don’t have proper insulation, you’ll have to deal with longer heating times and quicker cooling down times, meaning you will need to run the system for longer, consuming more electricity. 

A good-quality underlayment with a large R-value can also work as insulation. This means you don’t need to give up on any of the advantages underlayment can offer while still having an insulating barrier.

We recommend the QuietWalk underlayment as it offers key features like compression support, sound reduction, and moisture protection, all while keeping an R-value of 0.58. 

Flooring Material 

Lastly, the kind of flooring you have in your home will impact the efficiency of your electric radiant floor. Because of their excellent conductivity, stone and tile make the ideal material to go over radiant floor heating systems. They warm up quickly and cool down slowly. 

On the other hand, carper is a floor covering that can negatively impact the heating systems. Carpet generally acts as an insulator and traps the heat underneath. 

When selecting a wood flooring product for installing a radiant floor heating system, you should limit your options to engineered products because solid hardwood is highly vulnerable to cupping and warping. 

Looking down at a crosssection of and exposed radiant floor heating system at left and a section of the wood flooring covering it to the right

We strongly recommend that any product you pick should come in snap-together planks that make floating floors, or it should come in planks that can be glued down. You cannot hammer nails into the floor without damaging the heating cables. 

How to Make Electric Radiant Floor Heating Systems Energy-Efficient

It’s safe to say that every homeowner wants their home to be energy efficient. That’s because energy wasted means money wasted.

You can use a thermostat if you’re looking for ways to make your radiant floor energy-efficient. You can use three kinds of thermostats: programmable thermostats, smart thermostats, and adaptable thermostats.

Let’s take a detailed look at each of these.

Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats allow you to set particular days and times for the start to switch on and off as per your schedule. Ensuring the system is turned off or down when you aren’t home is an excellent way to conserve energy and save money. 

Smart Thermostats 

Smart thermostats are another excellent energy-efficient option. However, you should check with the manufacturer of your heating system to find out which thermostats can work with it. 

These thermostats have sensors that determine whether a person is at home. Once it figures out your routine, like exiting the house at 8:30 am every morning, it learns to automatically turn the heat off or low while you are not at home.

A smart thermostat on the wall in our second net-zero home
A smart thermostat on the wall in our second net-zero home

Similarly, if it gauges that you come home at 5:30 pm every evening, it will automatically schedule the system to start before that time. By predicting your routine, a smart thermostat can enhance the energy efficiency of your home’s radiant floor. 

Adaptive Thermostats 

Many radiant floor heating manufacturers even provide adaptive thermostats that learn the time it takes a particular heating system to reach temperature control so they can account for that in your schedule. 

Last Few Words

Radiant floor heating systems are more energy-efficient than forced air heating as it prevents duct losses. Usually, this energy efficiency means that fortifying your primary heating system with floor warming can lead to higher long-term energy savings. 

When it comes to an electric radiant floor heating system, proper insulation and the right thermostat can keep you warm without putting a hole in your pocket. 

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