As I grow older, my feet get colder. Every winter I wish I had radiant floors. I first encountered a radiant floor kitchen in Washington State where friends had rehabbed a Victorian home. They used a hydronic tubing heating system, which is usually too pricey for most homeowners. It can cost more than putting in an entirely new boiler and forced air system. But the floor was toasty and muffled the shock of walking across the floor to make morning coffee.
Today, you can install an electric radiant floor heating system for your kitchen or bathroom floor for under $500--depending on square footage. I discovered two kinds of electric radiant heating systems with a wide range in costs for materials and labor. Both have gained in popularity over the last decade.
Some systems consist of cables that are wrapped with insulation and installed directly into concrete or gypsum sections that are embedded into your floor. These can be the more expensive choices because you need a sturdy sub-floor to handle the weight of the tiling.
Installing Radiant Floor Matting The other option is installing radiant mats that have cables woven directly into them. The mats are installed directly below your tiles or onto the sub-floor and covered with pad and carpet. The radiant mats come in a variety of sizes, are powered by 20 volts and 240 volt systems, and require about 12 watts per square foot to operate. A system installed directly beneath a carpet can heat up in an hour or so, while a system in the sub floor can take hours to reach your comfort level.
If you choose to install a radiant mat system in your bathroom, you have the option of covering it with any stone or tile that makes for a good conductor (ceramic, marble, granite, glass, or slate). There are also over-tile radiant heating systems comprised of mats that install directly over your existing tile and allow you to add a new tile floor on top. But you may need to reinforce the sub-floor to handle the weight and problems with deflected heat.
A more-recent radiant system uses mats that install directly beneath carpets and floating floors. Manufacturers claim that the systems are silent and can supplement your heating sufficiently to curb some usage from the forced-air furnace, fighting mold, pollen, and cutting heating costs. The greatest advantage, it seems to me, is that you can install these on your own.