Heated floors are such a fabulous addition to any home, especially now that winter is fast approaching. The two most popular methods of installation are electric radiant heat and hydronic heat. Here are some ways to distinguish between these two methods:
Electric Radiant Heat
This is a less expensive and easier to install version, in which thin electrical heating cables are interlaced on mesh mats and then pressed between sheets of thinset before the primary flooring material is installed. Porcelain or ceramic tile, stone or concrete are the best conduits; wood (unless engineered flooring) is discouraged. A separate thermostat controls the temperature settings and programmable units are available and often used in bathrooms and kitchens. This type of radiant heat is typically supplemental to another heating system.
Hydronic Heat uses a network of closed loop tubing running under the flooring and then back to a water source. Generally, a dedicated boiler or hot water heater, is the basis of a hydronic heating system which pushes water heated to a temperature of 100 to 120 degrees through the tubing. This heavy duty tubing is held in place by a thin layer of concrete and then covered with the flooring material of your choice. Hydronic floor heat is also controlled by a separate thermostat and is considered the most energy efficient of the two choices. This type of radiant heat is often designed to be the sole source of heat in a home, although it can also be used as a supplement in a master bedroom suite, as an example.