This Christmas, I’ve decided to give my family a gift that they’re going to love.  It’s an experiential present — not a typical gift that fits in a box.  Let’s see if you can guess what it is:

  • It will keep you toasty warm which my daughter will like because she’s always cold
  • It will help keep allergies at bay – which will make my wife’s nose very happy
  • It’s nice and quiet which my son will appreciate because he’s a very light sleeper.
  • My elderly dog, Murphy, will especially thank me for this family gift!

Guess the answer yet?  Here’s one more hint:

  • It’s highly energy efficient so I’ll save money on my energy bill which sounds good to me!

My family is going to be DELIGHTED because I’m giving them the gift of comfort for Christmas.  That’s right, I’m going to install radiant heat in our kitchen.  Take it from the Coop, it’s as much a gift for me as it is for my family.  I’m tired of everyone complaining about how frigid this room becomes in the winter.  We’re a family that doesn’t wear shoes in the house so consequently, our tootsies get very cold walking on the icy tile flooring.

For those of you who don’t know very much about radiant heat, let me tell you about this very effective heating system.  There are two main types of radiant heat:  electric and hydronic (water-based).  Both methods achieve the same goal, but since my background is centered on heating, cooling, and plumbing, I’ll discuss hydronic-based radiant heat.

Very simply, hot water is pumped from a boiler or water heater through a loop of flexible tubing embedded in the sub-floor.  Because the tubing is distributed over the entire surface of the floor, the resulting heat comes up through the floor and directly warms anything that comes in contact with it from the ground up– like toes!  The warmth is uniform so there aren’t any drafts or dead-spots which is often the case with conventional heating units like ducted forced hot air systems that circulate warmth by blowing heated air around the room.  Of course, we all know that hot air rises so the portion of the room near the ceiling may be toasty warm with forced hot air, but the area near the ground, where you and I usually reside, is often cooler.  Contrast that with radiant heat which starts at the floor and gravitates up so the bottom-half of the room is enveloped in warmth.  What’s more, people often feel more comfortable with their thermostat set at a lower temperature – up to 5°F lower – trimming your energy bill for that area. In fact, according to the US Dept. of Energy, radiant heat is more energy efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because it eliminates duct losses.

Besides the enhanced comfort-level and energy efficiency of hydronic radiant heat, there are other very tangible reasons to consider radiant heat:

  • Radiant heat is totally quiet. There is no whooshing sounds of air as it circulates around the room and no mechanical noises as the furnace turns on and off.
  • It is particularly beneficial for people who suffer with allergies or asthma. Since radiant heat doesn’t blow warm air around the area, particles such as dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and bacteria aren’t disturbed.
  • Radiant heat is easy to zone with individual programmable thermostats, enabling different rooms to be adjusted as desired.
  • You’ll never experience drafts, uneven temperatures or static electricity – just unwavering warmth because radiant heat consistently transfers heat to people and objects.

Naturally, the process of installing radiant heat is super simple during construction or remodeling if the flooring needs to be removed anyway. Subflooring can even be purchased with radiant tubing already embedded into it.  This particular product is more expensive, but the labor cost to install is much lower.  For those of us who are not planning a major renovation, radiant heat can often be retrofitted in an area without disturbing the existing flooring by installing it from underneath.  For example, since my kitchen is on the first floor with an unfinished basement on the ground floor, I’ll simply install radiant heat from below.  In any case, it’s a very versatile heating solution that can be utilized under many types of popular flooring such as tile, wood, vinyl, laminate, concrete and carpet.

To tell you the truth, we’ve installed hundreds of radiant heating systems over the last 40+ years here at Cooper Mechanical, but I never thought to install it in my own home!

Well, never say never – instead, say Ho! Ho! Ho!  Luxurious warmth, here we come!