Hydronic Radiant Floor
Heating Systems

Reviews of hydronic radiant floor heating systems. Infloor radiant heating advantages. Hydronic baseboard heating review. Concrete floor radiant heating installation.

Radiant heating systems are using radiant energy emitted from electric coils or tube heaters to heat the floor, wall or ceiling panels.

In radiant floor heating, wires or pipes are embedded into the concrete floor, or underneath the plywood floor, where the heating medium is hot water (actually warm). PEX tubing as the most used radiant tube heaters are heating the floor and producing much more stable temperature and high comfort than any other system.
hydronic radiant floor heatingPEX tubing is mainly used in hydronic radiant floor heating systems where the boiler or water heater heats up the incoming cold water, and pump circulates the warm water through the tubes.

Tube heaters, installed underneath the flooring, are conducting the heat to the surface of the floor, objects and people inside the room, rather than to heat the air directly.

What is the radiant heat?

Radiant heat seen through the example: When the Sun heats the concrete floor or water inside the big barrel and then at night let that heat radiate into the room, you will have a radiant heating.

Use, cost, pros and cons


PEX tubing for hydronic floor heating can be installed infloor or below the floor. Thin slab or concrete floor radiant heating is a good example of infloor radiant heating that provides the high comfortable level inside the home.

Below the floor application includes the PEX tubing installed underneath, attached or stapled to the plywood floor.

Hydronic radiant floor heating system can be combined with the baseboard and boiler hot water systems and used in additions, remodeled and in new constructions.

Hydronic floor heating systems are designed for both residential and commercial applications, for domestic water and home heating or ice and snow melting on the driveway.


Hydronic radiant floor heating system costs much higher than the conventional types of heating, but as it requires a low temperature fluid, the result is in the lower operating costs (some manufacturers claims that the reduction in cost is from 20% to 40%).

For example; radiators are using expensive copper tubing while the radiant floor heating system inexpensive and easy to install PEX tubing.

The bottom line is that the cost of installing a hydronic radiant floor heating system varies; it depends on the home size, the floor coverings, type of the installation and cost of labor. Based on the info I have found online, hydronic system, for 1500 sq. ft home can cost somewhere between $7000 and $13000.

Popular brands and manufacturers


The main advantages of radiant heating are the increased comfort level and the lower energy cost. You will feel warmer inside the room where the radiant floor heating is installed versus conventional air type systems, and for the same temperature (moving hot air has the cooling effect also). Hydronic radiant floor heating systems warm the room entirely, the heat rises up from the flooring, through the furniture, people inside the room to the surrounding air.

Radiant floor heating systems are also more efficient than other types. Radiant floor heating is not using big blowers to move the hot air, it uses the low temperature water to heat the floor, object and people, and the heat can be adjusted from one room to another.

Each room can have its own separate controller so heating for the unused room can be turned off and also precisely maintained.

Hydronic radiant heating also provides a better comfort level when heating the room with the higher ceiling, then the systems that heat the air first. In the radiator heating the heat rises up, while the area above the floor surface is colder. Baseboard heating system does the perimeter heating only while the center of the room is less comfortable.

Other advantages are that the radiant heat doesn't dry out the air, and the noise level is lower.

No dirty filters and dust movement is very low, which keeps the air quality inside the room higher and homes healthier.

Heating pipes are out of the sight and they don't interfere with the furniture, which is the case with the radiator or baseboard heating systems.

emergency plumber


With the radiant floor heating, it takes longer to heat the room and cool the room off. Radiant heating requires higher initial cost, when comparing to traditional systems.

Radiant floor heating systems

There are two types of cost effective radiant heating systems for floors: electric and hydronic radiant floor heating. Both systems heat the floor with coils installed infloor or underneath the floor. For those who prefer do-it-yourself projects, electric is easier, solar and geothermal are more complex.


Electric radiant floor heating systems are more efficient than traditional electric heaters, but less than hydronic systems; they are also easier to install and service.


Hydronic radiant floor heating systems are using the liquid as the heating element that is heated by using any type of the fuel. The most common medium is domestic water, heated by the water heater or boiler. Hot water is moved through the pipes or tubing and returns to the water heater or boiler for reheating. The water is retained in the system, and it has to be replenished periodically, which is done automatically by the HVAC system.

In some hydronic systems, the temperature in each room is controlled by regulating the hot water flow through each tubing loop. The flow of hot water is control by the system of zoning valves, pumps and thermostats.

The brain of the hydronic heating system is the control system, consisted of the thermostats, aquastats and switches.

Heat source used for hydronic radiant floor heating can be a gas, oil-fired boiler, as the most common types, while solar and geothermal radiant heating are getting on popularity. Hydronic radiant floor heating systems are the most popular in colder regions.

Good radiant floor system should last at least 20 years, but it depends on the quality of materials used, heat generator, quality of work...

Where to install hydronic radiant floor heating system

Basement floors are the perfect place for radiant floor heating systems, as the concrete, either thick or thin slab, is an excellent mass, making the floor a huge radiator. The more thermal mass in the floor, the HVAC system works better. Laminate floors are better than hardwood floors while the carpet has to be properly rated for radiant floor heating, and with the proper backing material. Vinyl flooring is not recommended, tile works the best.

Other than thin slab and thick concrete installation option, you will also find two other popular terms, when talking about installing hydronic radiant floor heating systems. They are known as dry systems:

  • Above-floor systems

  • Below-floor systems

Above-floor systems are installed below finished flooring (hardwood flooring for example) but above the sub flooring. Proper planning is important for this type of the system as this system uses a grooved wood panel, installed under the finished floor. The floor height is raised, which can cause the problem for doors or plumbing fixtures.

For below-floor heating system the above wood panel and second sub floor are not needed, so this system automatically requires less time, labor and material for the installation.

When the PEX tubing is installed under the plywood floor it makes the cost of installation lower. You won't find any issues with the weight which is found with the slab system, but it requires higher temperature to provide the same temperature as the above radiant home heating systems. This system is popular for retrofits.


Electric or hydronic radiant floor heating systems are gaining popularity as the cost-effective way to heat the home or office. Yes, it is expensive, but when you take all the advantages into account, such as the unmatched comfort, you will see why it makes sense, especially when building a new home or remodeling an existing one.

Related Articles

  • Concrete Floor Radiant Heating Systems - How and why to install concrete floor heating. Radiant heat in concrete slabs for home and driveway heating.

  • Is hydronic baseboard heating the right solution for your home? How dows the hot water baseboard heater work, advantages, disadvantages and types. Can baseboard systems be combined with the existing radiant or any other system?

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