At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced it – you crawl from the warmth of your bed, swing your legs over the edge, and immediately regret your decision as soon as your feet hit the icy floor. While civilization has played this little dance with discomfort for millennia, thanks to modern innovations, you can say syonara to this tango.
Woodstoves, forced air, baseboard heating…they all have their merits, but when it comes to comfort, nothing beats radiant floor heating.
Benjamin Franklin observed the inefficiency of the standard fireplace hearth at properly heating an entire room, so, in true American fashion, he invented his own alternative – the Franklin Stove. Though his stove was not a hot-seller, it helped bring about further inventions to provide sufficient comfort during chilling times.
Forced-air heating systems are nice in that almost as soon as you touch the thermostat, gusts of warm air come billowing from the registers to greet you. However, these systems are not very energy-efficient, not to mention the amount of dust and allergens they keep blasting into your rooms every time they kick on. Plus, there’s always that awkward period when the furnace kicks off and the room starts cooling, and you aren’t certain whether you should grab a sweater, and about the time you put one on, the furnace kicks in again and you start sweating… Yeah, THAT moment. It’s like a meteorological roller coaster.
Baseboard radiators, whether electric or hot water, have their own set of issues. Yes, some are more energy-efficient than others, but the glaring problem is this: they heat the perimeter. Now, perhaps this isn’t a huge problem if you like clinging to your beautiful log walls. But, if you’re like most people, you live your life in the broader floorspace of your home. With baseboard heat, the warm air rises along the walls, leaving the rest of the room to catch up, often creating uneven temperatures throughout the home.
And, none of these options even begin to touch our original plight – the frigid floors. With traditional heating methods, you often develop hot air in the upper portion of a room while areas closer to the floor remain cooler. If you stand, you’re hot; if you sit, you freeze.
The Answer – Radiant Floor Heating
The answer to this heating dilemma is radiant floor heating, a more recent heating innovation that warms your home from the floor up. In other words, it heats your home in the layer of the stratosphere where you live without worrying about heating the beams in your cathedral ceiling.
Several types exist, including electric mats or panels that serve as warming pads beneath a floor (usually reserved for single rooms), but the most popular and cost-effective systems are hot-water “hydronic” systems that circulate hot water from a central boiler through plastic tubing beneath your floor.
This tubing is typically ½ inch in diameter and is woven back and forth across your rooms to provide gentle, even heat throughout. These tubes are generally nestled into specialized panels with pre-cut grooves (as shown below). These systems can be installed on top of a subfloor, or some manufacturers also offer subfloor materials that are already designed to accept the tubing. They can also be used in cement floors by installing them prior to the concrete being poured.
Radiant floor heating systems do not offer the instant response of a forced air unit; rather, they gradually heat a room by radiating their warmth through the floor (and anything touching it) to bring the room to a steady, even temperature. But this “slow and steady” approach results in significantly-increased energy efficiency and ultimate comfort…not to mention the elimination of frigid floors forever.
Another benefit of many radiant floor systems is the ability to section off areas of the home or individual rooms as “zones,” allowing you to more accurately fine tune the temperature for everyone’s comfort level. Some are even equipped with the ability to automatically adjust the temperature based on outdoor conditions!
Radiant floor heating may not be the best option if you plan to install lots of carpeting or if you’re looking for an all-in-one heating and cooling system (as radiant floor heating systems do not address cooling needs). Thankfully, though, you have the choice to install whatever heating system you want in your new log home or timber frame home. We encourage you to consult a professional for complete details and always discuss these options with your Timberhaven sales representative. It’s time to reclaim those chilly floors, so do your part, and join the resistance!