Radiant, in-floor, water heating systems offer the advantages of efficiency, quiet operation and invisibility; however, they are more expensive to install and require a separate air conditioning system. Once the system is in place, the owner can have practically any type of floor covering, with the exception of some carpets.
With forced-air systems, hot air enters the room from vents, rises to the ceiling and cools. The cold air then falls back to the floor so the occupant’s feet remain cold. In-floor heating eliminates cold floors in the home. The water system provides a gentle heat that eliminates the stratification common with forced air systems. The in-floor system is more effective at heating the space where people live.
The system works by pumping hot water from a boiler through a series of pipes to warm the home. The entire floor serves as a radiator, but because the pipes are under the floor, the system eliminates space wasting radiators. While it works well with wood flooring or tile, carpets with thick padding provide too much insulation and prevent the heat from warming the room.
Installing a hot water heating system in the floor costs between $6 and $15 per square foot as of 2015. However, operating the system is 30 percent more efficient than a forced air system.