A homeowner installs radiant floor heating in his home

Does radiant floor heating run on a gas or electric supply? Which of these systems will work best for your home? And which one will save more money?

These are some of the questions commonly asked by homeowners about in-floor heating installations.

With the rise in popularity of in-floor radiant heat, we thought we’d take a look at both options so you can decide which one is best for you.

Does Radiant Floor Heating Run on Gas or Electric Power?

Radiant floor heating systems can run on electricity or gas.

Hydronic radiant systems use natural gas to heat water that flows through the in-floor tubing. These systems require a boiler to be installed to heat and circulate the water.

Electric systems use electrical resistance to heat their core components beneath the floor and provide heat to the space. These systems are fully electric and do not require access to natural gas or propane.

Electric vs. Gas Radiant Floor Heating: Which One Should You Choose?

Radiant floor heating systems can use electricity, natural gas, oil, or solar wind for operation. The two most popular systems are hydronic (gas-fired boiler) and electric.

These systems can save around 15–30% of winter heating bills. A significant difference in the output lies in how each system operates and its type of power source.

Before you move forward with an in-floor heating system, make sure you consider things like:

  • Cost of installation
  • Projected cost of utility bills (electric heat sources are often more expensive to operate than natural gas or propane)
  • Home renovation considerations
  • Are you going to use in-floor heating for your entire home or just a couple of rooms?
  • Are there more cost-effective HVAC options out there?

Gas Radiant Floor Heating: How Does It Work?

Hydronic (or water-based) radiant heating systems use natural gas or oil to boil water. The gas-operated boilers pump heated water around the tubing installed around the house.

For in-floor heating, these tubes are placed under the floor.

The waterproof tubes form a coil-like pattern with loops. This layout supports an even distribution of heat energy around the house (or specific rooms). You can place these tubes under concrete slabs, tiles, and hardwood.

A few radiant floor heating systems can feature built-in valves that allow you to create heating zones to regulate temperature.

You can turn these valves on and off to control the distribution of warm water in specific areas.

The pipes and valves of a hydronic radiant floor heating system are shown on the wall attached to the exposed lines spanning the floor

This gives you the option to increase the room temperature in the spaces you use frequently.

Alternatively, you can lower the temperatures in spaces you use less frequently to save a bit of money on your utility bills.

Is It Cost-Effective and Energy Efficient? 

Hydronic radiant floor heating systems have a higher upfront cost than electrical systems. They require extensive flooring and plumbing work, as well as a boiler installation.

It is more cost-effective to install these hydronic systems when you’re renovating your entire home or building a new one.

In most cases, financial advisors predict that installing hydronic systems will cost $13 per square foot.

The big benefit of hydronic heating systems is their low operation costs. These units will be quite a bit cheaper to operate than an electric system.

If you are looking to heat your entire home with in-floor heat, this may be the better choice.

Closeup of a hydronic radiant floor heating boiler and its attachments

Electric Radiant Floor Heating: How Does It Work?

Electric radiant floor systems are composed of conductive plastic mats laid into coils. These coils receive heat energy from electrical power that passes through connecting cables.

You can install it underneath the subfloor (with wooden panels or ceramic tiles). These mats can be retrofitted inside and don’t require as extensive renovations to install plumbing lines as you expect from hydronic installations.

Alternatively, some contractors can install built-in heating cables within the floor instead of using matted coils.

These coils are wrapped with water-resistant polymer to prevent electrocution or electrical outages in case of rainwater or plumbing problems.

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

The wires contain heat-conducting metals—copper and nichrome. Their high electrical resistance enables these metallic components to generate heat more efficiently.

You can control these systems by installing a compatible thermostat, which allows you to regulate room temperature. It takes less than an hour for smaller rooms to become warm and cozy when you switch on an electric RFH.

Is It Cost-Effective and Energy-Efficient? 

Depending on the setup of your home, electric in-floor heating can be a little cheaper to install than a gas-fired unit.

These systems will have higher operation costs, but they are easier for homeowners to maintain and don’t have the same risk of water leaks associated with hydronic systems.

The average cost of electric in-floor heating is $11 per square foot, according to NerdWallet.

That’s a couple of dollars cheaper than hydronic gas-operated radiant floor heating systems. 

A technician kneeling on the floor cuts a piece of cable from a spool during a radiant floor heating system installation

Often, homeowners will choose to heat one or two spaces with supplemental in-floor heating (bathrooms, bedrooms, living areas). This is a good way to increase home comfort without breaking the bank.

It will take some strain off your central HVAC system, and you might actually see lower utility bills, even with the use of electric heat.

One final benefit of electric in-floor systems is their ability to be used off-grid.

You can use solar power to charge your heating mats and coils. Using solar light can significantly reduce utility costs for your electric radiant heating system. It also makes the system more energy efficient. 

Final Thoughts

Both of these systems are fully capable of providing in-floor heating to your home. Which one you choose depends on a variety of factors.

No two homes are the same, and what might be perfect for one home could be a poor choice for another.

If you aren’t going to connect solar to your electric system and you want to heat your whole home, prepare for higher utility bills. A gas-fired hydronic system might be a better choice.

As always, it is best to bring up any concerns with your local HVAC company and get their opinion.

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