How to Choose and Install Under Floor Electric Radiant Heat

Electric radiant heat is an excellent way to keep floors warm. Traditionally installed in bathrooms to prevent the tile floors from getting too cold, using a radiant heat system is an luxurious update for any room. Electric radiant heat systems are easily installed if you plan on installing new flooring, but you can also use this heating method by installing it under the entire floor and retain your flooring. Under floor electric heating is also advantageous because it is the easiest type of floor heating system to install.

Before beginning this project you should do some research to find out if your particular flooring is a good match for radiant heating. In general, wood floors should not have radiant heating installed; heat dries out wood, making it prone to cracking. Tile and vinyl are both excellent options and will retain radiant heat well. Some types of carpeting can use radiant heat; you should check with the manufacturer before beginning to ensure no problems will occur.

For this type of installation you must have access to the underside of your floor. This means that this type of installation is best for a first floor room where the homeowner has access to an unfinished basement that has the first floor subfloor exposed. If you do not have access to the subfloor you will have to install between the flooring and the subfloor and cannot install under floor electric heating.

For under floor electric heating, it is a good rule of thumb to assume you will be using 8 to 12 watts per square foot of flooring that will be heated. You should make sure that the electrical system can withstand the added load of heating the floor. You should also run wiring to the underside of the subfloor that can be tapped into to power your floor. Some systems also require a thermostat, others can be turned on and off with a light switch already present in the room. Have an electrician take care of the wiring if you are unsure as to what you need. Once the wiring is complete you proceed with these steps for the installation.

Under floor electric heating systems come with a mesh mat in which two wires are attached. When electricity runs through these wires, the wires heat up and transfer their heat to the floor. You should buy a mesh mat that will fit between the joists in the floor. To install, use a staple gun to attach the radiant heating mat flush to the bottom of the subfloor.

You should then strip the ends of the wires running through the mat. Connect one wire to the black wire and the other to the white wire you will be using to power the heating system. Make sure the electricity is off before attempting this step. Use a copper sleeve and a crimper to attach each pair of wires. Once the connections are made you should cover both connections individually with electrical tape.

You then should install insulation over the radiant heating mat and subfloor. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for appropriate type and distance that the insulation should be installed from the radiant heating system. Disregarding the manufacturer’s recommendations could cause a fire hazard, so be careful and read the material thoroughly before installing it. Installing the insulation should be as easy as installing the radiant heat mat: just use a staple gun and staple into the joists.

Installing an under floor radiant heating system is an easy update that can make your winters all the more pleasant. While installing the radiant heat mats and insulation is an easy job, this project does require some basic electrical work. If you are at all unsure of how to do the electrical work required for a radiant heating system, call an electrician or at least have an electrician check your work. Of course, a licensed contractor could complete the entire job for you, leaving you more time to enjoy your floors.

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