An easy add-on with floor tile, installers need only apply thinset mortar directly over the floor-warming system before setting ceramic or natural stone tiles. Photos and diagrams courtesy of Watts Heatway.

Floor-warming systems are becoming increasingly popular. On one hand, they provide retailers with an effective response to the consumer who refuses to consider buying floor tiles because they are “too cold for bare feet.” But that’s just one explanation of their popularity. In fact, the number of floor warmer installations are up nationwide -- even in hot, dry regions of the country such as California, Nevada and Arizona.

A variety of factors have contributed to this growth. Unlike in-slab systems, the latest generation of floor-warming devices can be installed in small areas such as bathrooms (a bare-feet zone), kitchens, entryways, and sunrooms. They can be installed anywhere, as a matter of fact.

Another characteristic that’s added to the growth of these systems is the fact that they can be easily installed under all types of floor coverings. Essentially, floor-warming systems are designed to be loose laid atop the substrate. So, if the job calls for installation of ceramic or dimensional stone, your installer can apply thinset mortar directly over the system. The cost factor is relatively low -- approximately $12 to $15 per square foot.

Most commonly, such systems are placed beneath tile or dimensional stone. However, if your customer’s wish is laminate flooring, vinyl or floating wood, you may float a covering of self-leveling cement over the system before installing.

Typically, the systems make use of thermostat-controlled mats composed of heating elements woven or imbedded in a matrix. The systems need only operate for four to six hours per day, depending upon the end user’s demand. Heat-up time can vary from 20 to 35 minutes. In fact, the end user can set the thermostat to heat up the installed area before he or she wakes up every morning.

Components of a typical floor-warming system.
Warranties.You will find, on average, that a warranty on a floor-warming system may be 10 years. I am aware of at least one firm that offers a 25-year prorated warranty that’s similar to those offered on tires.

Installation. Generally speaking, floor covering, electrical or building contractors may install these systems. Mechanically inclined individuals may also be capable of installing them. Floor-warming system configurations are easy to design. Usually, distributors and/or dealers will prepare a quote and proposed design. If you or the seller wish, the manufacturer will prepare a design from your plans at no charge. This will aid the dealer in preparing a quote.

Cost to operate. Operating expense depends upon current electricity cost, how much mat is installed, and how long the end user operates the system. Hypothetically, let’s say the power cost is 10 cents per kilowatt hour, and the client operates a 40-square-foot area of mat approximately four to six hours a day. Under this scenario, the total cost to operate the floor-warming system would be about 14 to 18 cents daily.

What are the advantages of these types of floor-heating systems? The systems are extremely easy to install and, compared to forced-air heating with circulating air that stirs up dust, germs and pollen, they tend to minimize indoor allergens -- or at least leave them undisturbed.

Forced-air heating systems direct heated air at specific locations; generally, the areas near the ceiling are warmed but floor areas remain cold. Radiant floor-heating systems transmit heat upward to warm not only the occupant, but the flooring and furniture as well. And, no cold air pockets are created.

Service requirements. As a rule of thumb, each 100 square feet of mat requires 13 amps of electricity at 120 volts. There is no minimum floor area that needs to be covered to make the systems effective. The end user can install as little as 10 square feet. It’s his or her choice. It can be installed in one room or more. Certainly, it is not necessary to do the entire floor area to reap significant floor-warming benefits.

Another thing to point out to clients is the fact that an in-floor heating system adds to the value of the home and makes it more attractive to a prospective buyer. So, the benefits of installing such a system are varied indeed. And, you don’t have to let your customers’ objections to chilly floors derail a floor covering sale.

Ahh! It’s great to have warm feet.

Sources for Floor-Warming Systems include:

Suntouch...(888) 432-8932

Warmly Yours...(877) 927-6599

Delta Warm...(800) 526-7887

Flextherm...(800) 353-9843