Is radiant flooring a good green heating and cooling option?

Asked by Jerry

I wanted to get your opinion on a particular brand of radiant heat floor systems. Could you give me any info you have as to its acceptability as a green product and if you recomend it?


Mick Dalrymple

Answered by Mick Dalrymple

Scottsdale, AZ

Eco-Friendly Building Center

March 20, 2008

While we do not make specific brand recommendations, radiant flooring in general is an efficient and healthy option for indoor heating and cooling. Radiant heating and cooling mimics and takes advantage of the human body’s method of heating and cooling itself through infrared radation. This is the scientific concept behind the scenes in movies in which high-tech soldiers or spies use thermal imaging to track people. In radiant cooling, your body literally radiates heat toward floors, walls or ceilings (wherever the cooling system is) which then absorb it and take it out of the home. You can imagine the energy efficiencies of this method. The same process is used in reverse in the heating scenario.

Things to consider:

  1. If you are using a radiant system rather than a forced-air HVAC system, you still need to provide an air circulation system that exchanges stale indoor air with adequate outdoor fresh air and provides filtration. However, this ventilation system can be sized much smaller than if it was to handle the heating and cooling work as well.
  2. Radiant systems can either be hydronic (generally water) or electric.
  3. Radiant systems do not blow air, so they are quiet.
  4. If you are using radiant cooling, room humidity control is important to prevent condensation.
  5. Compare the energy efficiency of the various radiant designs. A good general starting point is the Radiant Panel Association, and then manufacturer-specific literature can point out efficiency advantages of particular innovations.
  6. You can improve on the efficiencies of a hydronic system by using solar water heating or a geosource-powered water heater as a heat supply.
  7. If you are using a radiant floor system, verify that your flooring material is appropriate and warrantied for use with a radiant heating system. Installing flooring that is a good natural insulator will render your system ineffective and may create undesirable heat build-up in the floor structure. There are many radiant-approved flooring options available, so selecting one that makes your room beautiful and works safely and effectively is not a problem.

Tagged In: radiant heat

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