Radiant heating has become quite popular over time, attracting a large number of homeowners to this convenient, comfortable and energy-efficient heating system. Then again, times weren’t always as simple as they are today.
The under-floor heating phenomenon was first discovered during the Neolithic era, or New Stone Age, which began around 10,200 BC. Considering the Neolithic era was a period when technology was, more or less, obsolete—the radiant heating system wouldn’t be perfected for thousands of years.
Today, however, after completing extensive amounts of scientific research, righting many past wrongs and patiently withstanding countless acts of trial and error year after year—radiant heat systems have become the success many have been hoping it would be.
Peter Leal, product marketing manager of Emerson Industrial Automation, says floor warming will boost a retailer’s customer satisfaction level while increasing overall profits. “Floor warming is a seamless, invisible comfort system that is not seen, heard, smelled or worried about once it is installed. It just makes your customers warm and comfortable.”
“It’s a comfort product,” said Shelby Combs, product manager of radiant heat maker SunTouch. “Once a homeowner—or guest—feels the luxury of a heated bathroom or kitchen floor, they will never want one without floor heating again.”
This under-floor heating system—radiant heating—is designed to conduct heat directly through the floor surface rather than through the air like a conventional forced-air heating system.
“Radiant is, in simple terms, invisible electromagnetic infrared waves that heat objects, not the air,” said Roy Reichow, professional flooring consultant for National Wood Floor Consultants in East Bethel, Minn. “This is done by supplying heat directly from a source (radiators, floor/ceiling panels, etc.), and providing radiant heat transfer. The delivery of heat is from the source (hot surface) to objects or people within the room through inferred radiation.”
Instead of overheating the room’s perimeter in the hopes the warm air will travel throughout the space before losing its affect, radiant heating systems serve up heat from below. The result is a more even, overall heat that warms everything in the room, including surfaces, furnishings and, most importantly, your customers and their family.
“In-floor electric radiant heat has become very popular with consumers,” said Duane Reimer, technical director at MP Global Products, which manufactures these kinds of products. “So there is a good opportunity for a retailer to offer it and add value to the sale and increase [his] profit.”
Those experienced in selling radiant heat point out it’s not hard to sell customers something they already want. After all, radiant heat pretty much sells itself.
“One of the hottest new trends in flooring is ‘warm feet, happy heart,’” says Jay Conrad, product manager at Laticrete. “Ever wake up in the middle of the night and go into the bathroom with bare feet? The typical substrate temperature, even in warm climates, is 55 degrees to 65 degrees. Your body is at 98.6 degrees, that’s a 30-degree difference. Warm that floor up to 75 or 80 degrees and your feet love the feeling.”
And the myth that radiant heat is only sold in the colder climates is just that, a myth.
“In warm climates, tile can still feel cold against the skin,” said Julia Billen, president and owner of WarmlyYours. “Even if the tiles are room temperature, 70 degrees feels cold to the feet.”
Reimer added, “Many popular types of solid surface flooring, including wood, laminate and [resilient], feel cold underfoot even in warmer climates. In fact, we sell a lot of electric radiant heat systems in Florida.”
Another assumption being thrown around is that radiant heat is sold for specific areas of the home, such as bathrooms, and that also isn’t always the case.
“Bathrooms and kitchens are the most common areas for radiant heat,” added Combs. “However, it can be installed throughout the entire home as well.”
Dave Godlewski, radiant heat division sales manager for PENROD, feels the company’s Warmest can be a heating solution for any room or outdoor area.
“In certain parts of the country it can be a heating source for the whole house,” he noted. “Since the installation time is faster than most heated floor applications, the option exists to sell our product for any room.”
“Cold floors exist in the majority of the United States,” said Mark Hudoba, director of heating and cooling for Uponor. “A simple radiant floor warming system can be relatively inexpensive and provide dramatically improved comfort for selected areas of a home—basements or master bathrooms, for example.”
It’s obvious that consumers have heard of radiant heating but, just like anything else, they want to know what they’re purchasing by sampling it first and numerous retailers have set that up for them inside their stores.
“Far and away, the most popular way [to sell radiant heat] is with a countertop display where people simply can experience what the heat feels like coming through a small piece of flooring,” explained Reimer. “Although, there are stores that are more ambitious and will put down a whole area of heated flooring. A retailer can also use a cardboard flooring display that a manufacturer might offer.”
Conrad agrees. “Have an area in the store where the floor is not heated and then heat an adjacent area with floor heat under the tile. Have the customer step on one, and then the other. She will feel the difference.”
WarmlyYours feels the same way, as Billen describes, “The best way to display radiant heating products at retail is by letting the customer feel the warmth for themselves. WarmlyYours offers a heated tabletop display that radiates heat through a ceramic tile, enabling customers to experience radiant heat firsthand. We’ve found this to be the most effective way to sell in-floor heating.”
While all floor coverings can be used with heated floors, some work more effectively than others. Materials with thermal-conducting properties—ceramic/porcelain, stone, concrete—conduct, transfer and hold heat effectively while withstanding high temperatures.
“Resilient flooring—vinyl, rubber, linoleum—is typically conductive, quite durable and radiant-friendly,” said Reichow. “However, certain sheet products expand and contract at different rates which may pose a threat to some large installations. Always check with the flooring manufacturer’s installation recommendations regarding radiant heat systems.”
Though technological advancements have allowed for the installation of radiant heat to be easier than ever, and many people would rather handle their own home renovations nowadays, professionals are still recommended to both sell and install these products.
“The installation process has changed dramatically,” said Reimer. “In the past, an installer had to set the heat wire in a mortar bed. Now there are products like ours that go right on top of the underlayment pad and then under the hard surface finished floor.”
Hudoba mentions another important factor. “The system installation is dependent upon the size of the system. While a small, simple system is not difficult to install, Uponor recommends basic training prior to installing a radiant-floor warming or heating system. We offer a variety of installation trainings. In addition, Uponor offers design and technical support for installers to assist with successful installations and satisfied customers.”
When it comes down to it, though, customers want what they want.
“The primary reason to offer radiant heating is customer demand,” he said. “There is an ongoing trend for homeowners to want, even demand, improved comfort in their homes. It is also an opportunity for retailers to increase revenue and differentiate themselves from their competition while providing additional value to their customers.”