What I'm Seeing Now

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Radiant Floor Heating

I don't often run into radiant floor heating.

In this house the buyers asked me if I checked the radiant floor heating in the upper-floor master bathroom.

It had been turned on before I arrived.  Not knowing there was radiant floor heating there, when I entered the bathroom I sure could tell!

The heating material was all over the bathroom.  And it was quite uniform except immediately around the edges of the walls.

Not only could I feel it, I could see it.

Well, Mighty Mo, my thermal camera, could see it.  Without the camera one can only feel heat.

And walking in the heat was on!

Taking a couple of points of temperature reference I thought would be indicative, you can see the difference between where the flooring heating material is and where it is not.

So, in this bathroom, if you have the heat on and are using the toilet, your frontey is warm and your hiney is cool!

I bet this will be a popular spot in the dead of winter!

After being in the bathroom for a while I felt like I wanted to take a nap!  No one will want to wear shoes or slippers in this bathroom!

But - since we were talking about the hiney there must be a but...

Is radiant flooring an energy saver?  Studies vary but seem to agree that there is no evidence for that.  In fact, it appears that this heating system proves more expensive than hoped.

Why?

The system is slow to warm up and slow to cool down.  Lots of heat is lost to surrounding areas, and when it is operational the flooring is warm for only a few hours a day.  When the system is turned down or off the floor gets cold.

People complain that when they walk into a room the floor doesn't feel warm.  So the tendency is to turn up the thermostat a bit to warm it up.  That takes a while.

How long it stays warm depends on lots of things - primarily how well the insulation is done nearby.  Is the "building envelope" tight?  Is there infiltration and exfiltration of air through the exterior walls, doors or windows nearby?  How well is the heat contained by the flooring material?  There are MANY things that can contribute to the effectiveness of the heating.

My recommendation:   according to the studies, it seems the floor isn't comfortable unless it is warm to the touch.  Most people have skin temperature in the upper 80sF.  Temperature to the touch is considered tepid, meaning comfortably warm, at 80-85F.  Having to keep this floor at that temperature range all winter might be expensive.  Only living with the system - experimenting with temperatures and comfort - will prove that!   We don't know what we know until we know.   Like, um, I mean, like, you know?

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 15 commentsJay Markanich • September 19 2015 12:59AM

Comments

Yes, I don't think radiant heat saves money.  It is more of a comfort.  Insulation boards below help too.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 4 years ago

I'm not familiar with insulaton boards Debbie.  Are they pads on the floor?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

My son has radiant heating in his house, not sure about the costs but that house is nice and toasty in the winter. It's just feels warm inside with out feeling any heated air blowing around.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 4 years ago

Fred - it is toasty!  I expect that gas or electric has very different costs associated, and it also probably depends on where that is.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

I always wondered about radiant floor heating.  Is it really heating the room or just warming up the floor so ot feels warm?  Either way, I bet stepping in this bathroom on a cold winter day is a treat.

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) almost 4 years ago

It will heat the room, Stephen, and will continue so long as the system is operating.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

There are almost no limits anymore to having the best quality as that goes, which can beat your vantage

Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) almost 4 years ago

Hi Laura.  Been a while!  This house was certainly full of the best quality.

Very nice new avatar!  I'm told I should change mine (115 pounds lighter...).

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

What do you think?

The camera snapped it before I was ready, but there it is!

It's got good feng shui written all over it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

Good to see that all that medication you were on had absolutely no negative affect on you at all!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 4 years ago

Looking at my new avatar there, and Laura's above in her comment above, it appears she has not been so affected by medication Fred!

Actually the weight loss was not caused by the medication.  I was very aggressive because I thought it would make my surgeries more effective.

They want me on these things for another 6 months!  I have to say, it isn't fun.

I should have put my make up on before that photo up there.  Silly me.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

Interesting take on radiant heating. I have inspected entire houses with radiant systems that include the garage and basement. Usually the systems are gas fired boilers or geo-thermal. The floor does not, should not be as hot as you theorize. Typically the floor is at room temperature (68 - 72). The water in the tubing is kept much lower than if it were going through radiators. If the water was hot, the floor would become to hot to stand on. Yes the system takes longer to warm and cool. That is why the recommended best way to operate a radiant system is to set temperature and leave it alone. Believe me a 70 degree floor is very comfortable on the feet. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 4 years ago

Hi Jim!  Ain't heard from you in a while.

I'm not sure I was theorizing the temperatures as they were indicated to me by the camera.

However, here is another one, over toward the sinks.  It was hotter over there.

I used the toilet image in this post so I could make a silly point about the hiney...  you know me.

Seldom do I see radiant flooring.  This was my first experience with my camera!  It seems I called you once about it when I had a potential inspection to do, but it never came through.

However, this system is new, was a plugged in wall unit in the master closet behind the wall!  It circulated and heated the water to the bath floor, and got its water supply from the sink.  I admitted to never seeing one, which is why I was so interested with the camera.

Yes, the floor was WAY comfy on my feet!  The information I included in the post came off of a "green" website.  I always go there because if their information is not agreeable I can't be accused of politics!  (All those sites I go to say the same negative stuff about tankless water heaters too, so I know thinking on my post about them years ago was not out of line.)

It was on when I got there so I don't know how long the electric unit takes to heat the water.  But I got to the house at 715am, and there were a couple of workers there already finishing up, and I bet they had not turned it on very much before I got there.  But, don't know...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

P.s.  When I say the system is new, I was told by the supervisor that it is new to the market.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

Oh, and radiant flooring in a garage would be unheard of around here! 

I was impressed flying into the Detroit airport once to see that the runways have radiant heating to keep them ice free!  THAT'S a big system!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

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