I will be building a basement as part of my log cabin construction. Since the basement will be finished at some point, I needed to decide on a heating system. One alternative that I researched was radiant floor heating. I learned that installation of radiant tubing within a concrete floor was the easiest, most cost effective and highest performance applications of radiant heat. Since the rest of the heating system can be installed at a later date, I concluded that it was the ideal choice for my situation.
What exactly is radiant heat? Why is it used? It is a very efficient heat distribution system that uses the entire floor to provide warmth to the room(s). It’s possible to set the room temperature several degrees lower than a forced air system and achieve the same comfort level. The most popular and less expensive residential system is hydronics, i.e., running hot water through flexible plastic tubing within the concrete floor. This system maintains a very comfortable warm feet and cool head environment. There are no vents as used in a less efficient forced air system.
The tubing is laid down in a serpentine fashion on top of the concrete wire mesh and insulation. The concrete is poured encapsulating the tubing. The two ends of the tubing stick out of the concrete (hot water in and cool water out.) The system is pressure tested before being connected to the water heating system. A floor sensor thermistor is used to monitor the temperature of the floor. A zoned system with multiple temperature monitors and tubing loops can be installed.
The cost of a hydronic system is approximately $4 - $6 per square foot. Installation does require an experienced specialist.
Almost any floor covering can be used over the concrete. The most common is ceramic tile. Vinyl and linoleum sheets, carpeting and wood can be applied. Laminated wood is better suited for radial heat than solid wood which is susceptible to shrinking and cracking. Of course, anything that insulates the floor will reduce the heat release and the efficiency of the system. A covered floor will require a higher temperature setting.
Although my plan is to install a radiant system in just the basement of my log cabin, it can also be installed upstairs with the tubing running between the joists and beneath the subfloor in what is called a dry installation. Wet or dry, it merits your consideration.