Do it Yourself Radiant Heat – Do You Have the Skills?

Monday, October 17, 2011

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Thinking about do it yourself radiant heat? You better have some serious fix it ability, because radiant heat involves a lot of different skill sets. There are also many different types of radiant heat that you can install in a home.

Let’s start with the easiest system and progress to the most difficult way to incorporate radiant heat into a room or an entire home. No matter what system you plan to tackle, a great place to start is with electrical radiant heat because not much has to be altered in an existing home to install them. The most difficult, but the most efficient is a hydronic radiant heat system, which requires a separate heat source.

The easiest radiant heat systems involve buying a heater that you simply plug into the wall. Radiant heaters are different than typical space heaters because they only warm objects they are pointed at. They don’t warm the air around them. Look here for popular portable Radiant Heaters. The smaller ones can cost only $30. Plug it in, and point it at you, so long as you are at least a few feet away from it. It emits infrared rays that warm you or the objects that are in its path. It basically works like sunlight rays producing the same feeling you would get if you were sitting behind a window on a cold day. The sun’s rays warm up the spot they are shining on, just like a radiant heater warms up objects that are near it.

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There are larger radiant heating plug in systems out there. Some companies that specialize in radiant heat products have even started to incorporate radiant heaters into common household objects like mirrors or a picture. Other radiant heat products such as aluminum radiators can be mounted up on the wall, and look very inconspicuous.

The next option for incorporating radiant heat would be to embed it into the flooring. This is by far the most comfortable option for using radiant heat. The easiest way, which is still pretty difficult even for some do it yourselfers, is to use an electric radiant under floor heating system. The radiant heat will come in a wired mat that you lay down on the subflooring. This radiant heat mat will then have to be embedded into the subfloor by covering it with thinset. If you have put down a tile floor, this isn’t that difficult of a step.

The one thing you do have to make sure you take care of is properly wiring the radiant floor heat mat. This system should be wired into the electric grid of the home, and it also should have a separate programmable thermostat dedicated to this radiant floor heat. Once the system is hooked up correctly, and has been tested, the finished flooring can be installed above the embedded system. Usually tile flooring is put over the top of the electric radiant floor heat. Tile typically has a very cool to the touch feel, but not with radiant heat. The tiles will now be toasty warm.

The most practical application for do it yourself radiant heat is to put a system in when you remodel a bathroom or kitchen. These rooms are typically small enough so the radiant heat won’t cost too much to install, and they can be hooked up to a programmable thermostat that will only heat the floor when people are actually using the room. The option of radiant floor heat in the bathroom is very popular because when the heat is programmed to turn on, let’s say in the morning when you are getting up for work, you walk into a warm inviting room instead of a cold and clammy tile floor.

It should be noted that you can use different surfaces besides just tile for electric radiant floor heat. Laminate and linoleum are two popular choices as well for this system. Carpet and wood floors don’t mix well usually with electric floor heat.

The last, and by far, the most complex do it yourself radiant heat option is to use a hydronic heating system. With this choice, you would have to install a boiler, a manifold for PEX radiant tubing, and then PEX radiant tubing would have to be strapped to the bottom of a subfloor with aluminum plates. You could also put the PEX radiant tubing on a floor where thinset can be poured over it. This would embed the radiant floor heat and then the finished flooring could be put right over the top of it.

In fact, with a lot of newer homes, the radiant heating is often embedded into the ground floor concrete slab. For the floors above grade, you can use a variety of products, from simply strapping the PEX radiant tubing under the subfloor, or buy a special subfloor where the channels are already precut for the tubes to rest in.

Do it yourself radiant heat is no joke. It requires a bunch of different skill sets from electrical to even plumbing. Make sure you understand what you want, and how exactly you are going to execute it.

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