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How to Design a Money-Saving Underfloor Heating System

An underfloor heating system can potentially help you increase the comfort level in your home and save a lot of money on your utility costs.  However, you’ll only receive these benefits if the system in your home is properly designed and installed.  It takes plenty of forethought to design an underfloor system that performs well and keeps your costs down.  Major points include:

  • Using a Water-Based System – There are three types of underfloor or radiant heating systems: air-heated systems, systems that generate heat with electric cables, and system that rely on water for heat transfer.  Generally speaking, a water-based system will save you more money than either of the alternatives.
  • Using Efficient Heating Components – A water-based underfloor heating system relies on a boiler to heat the water that travels through its tubes.  Well-designed systems use efficient boilers that have a high level of maximum performance and use relatively little energy during operation.
  • Properly Spacing the Tubing – The tubes used in underfloor systems can be laid out in a number of different patterns, with varying amounts of space between each line of tubing.  It takes a skilled professional to consider all variables when deciding how far to space the lines of tubing in your home.  Improper spacing can potentially reduce the efficiency of your system and cost you money.
  • Customizing the System to Your Home – Each home has its own unique properties when it comes to keeping out the elements and distributing heat evenly.  In order to design an efficient system for your residence, an underfloor heating professional must identify these properties and take them into account.  In addition to determining how far to space the tubing, this process will help determine how high to set the temperature of water coming from the boiler.
  • Stopping Heat Loss Below the Surface – In a poorly designed underfloor system, the heat intended for your house can pass uselessly into the surrounding soil beneath your home.  A good design prevents this money-wasting heat loss.  Steps here include getting an evaluation of the local soil conditions, and using appropriate underslab insulation made from rigid, heat-trapping materials such as polyurethane or polystyrene. 
  • Stopping Heat Loss in Floor Framing – You can also lose significant heat in the spaces between the framing timbers that form your home’s floor.  Insulation is also the answer for this potential problem.  Spray-on insulation, rigid panels and fiberglass batt can all do the job, as long as they have enough R-value to match the demands of your climate and type of home. 
  • Accounting for Wood Flooring – A poorly designed underfloor heating system can potentially cause expensive problems by reducing the stability of your wood flooring.  On the other hand, a well-designed system preserves your flooring by taking some key factors into account.  Important considerations here include the type of wood used in your floors, the techniques used to cut the wood in your floors, and the humidity levels inside your home. 
  • Accounting for Harder Flooring Materials – You can also install an underfloor heating system in rooms floored with any type of masonry, including slate, tile, stone, terrazzo and marble.  However, in order to avoid the headache and expense of damage to these types of floors, certain steps must be taken during design and installation.  First, the design must include expansion and control joints that allow masonry to withstand the temperature changes produced by underfloor heating.  (The same effects must be considered if you have concrete floors, which also shrink and expand with changes in temperature.)  In addition, the design must include some method of preventing cracks in masonry and concrete.
  • Accounting for Floor Coverings – Many homes have carpeting or other types of floor coverings.  Unfortunately, these coverings can potentially make your underfloor system less efficient by requiring you to maintain a higher temperature inside the system’s heating tubes.  Luckily, this problem can be avoided during the design process by adjusting the spacing of the heating tubes.  Different types of floor coverings will require different spacing patterns.

Underfloor Heating Systems require Careful Planning

As you can see, there are a lot of things to keep in mind when designing an underfloor heating system that keeps your house comfortable while also helping you save money.  If you’re thinking about installing this type of system, contact the experts at Orange Coast Plumbing for more information and helpful design strategies.  We can even install such a system for you.