What’s one of the hottest trends in home comfort and flooring installation? You’re getting warm – right, radiant heating!
Radiant heating brings unprecedented comfort to tile and stone – finishing materials that have often been dismissed as being cold. No more! In addition to heating a floor to one’s comfort, radiant heating either the entire home or specific zones is turning into a highly efficient, effective, and energy-conscious choice.
And product development is booming in this category, moving from wires to mats to wires that can be snapped easily and quickly into uncoupling membranes, streamlining the job and offering performance advantages, ribbon-format heating elements, programmable thermostats and most recently, WiFi thermostats that can be controlled from smart phones, computers or tablets.
Whereas old hydronic systems were a daunting proposition, modern “electric radiant floor warming is not a product that should overwhelm anyone,” said Sean Boyle, director Marketing & Product Management for LATICRETE. “In fact, it is not difficult at all to install! If distributors, retailers and contractors know more about this system, they all will be able to enjoy selling it and recognize more profits in doing so.”
Learn more about this exciting category and how it can bring comfort to your customers and cash to your bottom line. – Lesley Goddin
Michael Fuhrman, president
CMX Radiant Corp.
For decades, in-floor electric heat wire had been primarily installed with just a few methods. One was using straps with fastening hooks, which left the wire exposed and more prone to damage. Another was using prestrung wire in a retaining mesh, having pre-sized lengths and widths, which limited layout possibilities. Finally, custom-made mats with wire embedded became available, shaped to fit a specific area, but these were more costly and time consuming to manufacture. Over a wood substrate, most of these methods were applied over a tile backer board. Over a concrete substrate, many were installed over an anti-fracture membrane.
A few years ago, a new product emerged in the market that offered a new way for heat wire to be installed. The product replaced backer board and anti-fracture membrane, and at the same time incorporated a method to install heat wire. A series of short studs on a mat were used to create a layout grid to install and meet the spacing requirements for all heat wire brands on the market. In addition, the stud tops acted as a wire protector and screed surface for leveling cement. Since then, the popularity of this and similar products has soared, not only among contractors, but do-it-yourselfers as well.
Sean Boyle, director,
Marketing & Product Management
Electric radiant floor warming has become very affordable and quite easy to install. It incorporates an electric heating element to warm up the surface above it.
Electric floor warming is now considered to be a very attractive added feature when someone is in the process of selling his or her home. Certainly, a strong selling point is that the installation of an electric in-floor warming system does not require any special tile-installation procedures. The subfloor should be prepared as for any conventional tile installation according to applicable standards. For the most part, electric floor-warming components consist of a heating mat with cables which is installed right beneath the tile and stone surface, and a wall-mounted thermostat.
Surprisingly to many, the entire installation process is easier than you might think. To begin with, one should make a scale drawing of the floor plan, mapping out the “walking area” where the heating mat will be positioned.
Once the heating mat is put in place and all electrical work is complete, what comes next is the tile installation. High-performance ANSI A118.15-compliant latex thin-set mortars are designed for optimal performance when used in conjunction with electric floor-warming systems. In addition, the use of self-leveling underlayments can also be used to encapsulate electric floor warming systems when the substrate requires attention. Finish off the tile installation with a high-performance ANSI A118.7-compliant cement-based grout or easy-to-use epoxy based grouts for even better performance and ease of maintenance.
Electric floor warming (both in mat type or loose wire configuration) is a cost-effective heating solution when properly used. For those of you in the tile and stone sectors, it represents a wonderful product that makes a great-looking installation become a very comfortable installation as well.
Nuheat product manager
While electric floor heating has been around since the 19th century, the way we heat has advanced into three main types: loose cable, strip, and roll mesh and custom mats. Over the past decade there have been small improvements such as lead times, thinner cables, durable cold lead connections and so on, but the true trend in electric radiant floor heating is how homeowners can control their heat.
Smart devices, connected homes and automation are the way of the future, and electric radiant floor heating is no different! The first WiFi-enabled thermostat entered the market in 2014, and several followed, resulting in floor heating controls quickly becoming more technologically advanced. Homeowners can now control their floor heating remotely from an app on their smart phones. This can be a huge energy and money saver. As they head out of town or their schedules change, the temperature can be turned down from anywhere via mobile device, paired with a WiFi-enabled thermostat. These thermostats can also tell owners the current and forecasted weather in their area, as well as energy usage, with the ability to track exactly how many hours were used and adjust behavior accordingly. The next step will be these smart thermostats speaking to other home-automated appliances in their homes so that everything is controlled on one device or app.
Radiant Heat Division
sales manager for The PENROD Company
Not much matters more in a home than comfort, and one of the easiest ways to make homes, and living and working spaces more welcoming is temperature control. Radiant heating is an up-and-coming technology and combined with tax incentives and credits provides superior warmth at an affordable price.
While there are many options for in-home heat, none is more suited for longevity than radiant-heated flooring. In fact, radiant-heated flooring delivers in more than just aesthetics. This heat source increases comfort, provides durability, and reduces energy costs.
Besides being a solution to cold tiles underfoot, radiant-heated flooring conducts heat through the floor surface and is a cost and energy-efficient way to warm the whole home evenly, maintaining a consistent temperature from room to room without sacrificing air quality. As popularity increases, radiant-heated flooring can add substantial resale value and appeal to a home. The decreased energy use adds up to significant savings.
One of the newest products on the market uses a patented ribbon design to make installations easier and to disperse even more heat efficiently, while saving energy.
Ceramic and stone tiles are the ideal floor coverings because they are durable, easy to maintain, and hygienic. However, a common barrier to the selection of tile as a floor covering is the perception that tiles are cold under foot. Electric floor warming systems are an effective solution to address this barrier and continue to grow in popularity as a result.
However, raising the floor temperature results in expansion of the tile covering and the substrate below. Since substrate materials (concrete, plywood, etc.) expand at a different rate from the tile covering with temperature changes, and the temperature through the assembly from top to bottom varies, shear stresses occur at the interface between the tiles and the substrate. Uncoupling membranes neutralize these stresses to prevent cracking or delamination of the tile covering.
The latest generation of uncoupling membranes allows tile setters to snap electric heating cables in the membrane and immediately install tile using the thin-bed method. This eliminates the time-consuming practice of encapsulating the cables in a leveling compound and waiting for it to set before installing the tile. The result is a durable tiled floor that is warm and comfortable, which takes much less time to install.
If you have not heard of heated floors by now, it’s probably because you live in a tropical climate. However, for most of us here in North America, heated floors are becoming a necessity. As the winters increase in their length and severity, finding an affordable and more reliable alternative to forced air systems is the only way to go.
Overall, electric floor heating systems are a trend worth jumping on, if only for the simplicity of the system. It can get to places air vents cannot, heat each room evenly, and provide better control of the temperature in the home.
Electric underfloor heating systems provide an easy-to-install, cost effective and versatile heating solution, whether used as a primary or secondary source of heating.
senior product and customer support manager
Watts Radiant/Sun Touch
Consumers are looking for more powerful and more intuitive controls for floor heating systems, and they continue to seek systems that increase comfort in their homes. The contractor that is well prepared to satisfy these consumer wants will be very successful.
Over the last decade, the demand for radiant floor heat under tiled surfaces has evolved from an upscale luxury to somewhat of a staple. We’ve found the most common area in residential installations to be the master bathroom floor, both in remodels and custom homes. Over time, we have experimented with many products from customized heat pad systems to wire cable systems. The wire cables are more labor intensive, but tend to be the best option when there is any chance of room layout changing before installation.
Most recently, it seems the market trend in the tile industry is steering toward radiant heat systems that serve as both uncoupling membrane and a floor heating system. An example of this is Schluter’s Ditra-Heat. In situations where an uncoupling membrane is already specified, choosing this type of heat system becomes cost effective and time saving. In addition, it minimizes total floor height and installation time.
A third factor which becomes very appealing for us is that it can also serve as waterproofing when taped, and saves us yet another step. It is the most sensible option in circumstances where uncoupling membrane, waterproofing, and radiant heat are specified.
We’ve found the installation process to be very similar to that of most uncoupling membranes. The only additional thought process required is generally in spacing the cables correctly. For the installers, this system allows us to create customized heating zones based on clients’ needs, and becomes an energy-saving option for the end user.
The one glitch we’ve found with multiple heat zones is for clients who want to keep it simple, preferring only one thermostat no matter how large the area. However, from an installer’s perspective, an enticing feature is that the system is warranted by one manufacturer. If there are any concerns during or after installation, the manufacturer is familiar with all the components, and can readily troubleshoot with full technical knowledge of the system. In the past, when multiple components are used, such as subfloor and a separate radiant heat system, we’ve had to go back and forth between manufacturers to get to the bottom of the issue. Having one manufacturer allows for quicker resolution time if problems do occur.
For instances where CBU is specified without an uncoupling membrane or where floor height and waterproofing are not issues, then the options for radiant heat systems remain immense. We as tile installers prefer to work with the products with which we are most familiar. Regardless of the specific product, radiant heat systems from manufacturers of tile industry setting materials are always our preference over those made generically to go under any floor finishes.
VALLEFUOCO Tile Contractors
The biggest advancement in radiant heat is manufacturers coupling the heating element or cable into the uncoupling mat. This eliminates two separate steps. Traditionally you would install your heating cable, cover it with a self leveler or trowel thinset onto it. Now you install the uncoupling membrane of your choice and incorporate the heating cable into the uncoupling mat, then go over that with thinset.
Essentially you are eliminating one step of the process and a layer. This has almost eliminated the use of heating mats. When you incorporate the heating cables right into the uncoupling membrane you get uncoupling properties plus your heating element in one layer versus two. This cuts down time on installation and leads many installers to use the faster method. In most cases the cost equals out but allows you to do it in one day vs. two.
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.,
EasyHeat WarmTiles, a division of Emerson Industrial Automation, has introduced an easy-to-install floor warming cable specifically designed for uncoupling membrane systems. New WarmTiles™ DMC cables can be laid directly from a spool to the membrane in virtually any configuration, allowing for a fast, custom installation using product that comes directly from the distributor’s shelf. Available in 120VAC and 240VAC, the cable’s thicker diameter is tailored to perfectly snap in for a secure and reliable fit. It is ideal for virtually any flooring project deploying uncoupling membrane systems, whether it is new construction or renovation. WarmTiles DMC cables do not require a self-leveling or scratch coat and they are compatible with most major brands of uncoupling membrane systems. Cable heating area ranges from 7 sq. ft. (0.7 m2) up to 250 sq. ft. (23 m2), or 44 to 785 feet (13 to 239 meters) in length. In addition, EasyHeat offers programmable and non-programmable dual-voltage thermostats to control the temperature, and optimize power requirements of the system. Cables are CSA certified for use in the U.S. or Canada. www.easyheat.com.
LATICRETE offers several electric floor warming options. The LATICRETE Floor HEAT Mat is a versatile floor-warming mat designed for installation underneath tile and stone floors. It includes adhesive backing for easy installation, and a low-profile wire. The Floor HEAT Mat is designed for optimal performance when used with LATICRETE 254 Platinum, 86 LATILEVEL™ and SpectraLOCK® PRO Grout. This system is also designed for use with the LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat, a simple-to-use digital programmable thermostat in 120 V or 240 V configurations. Also available is the LATICRETE Floor HEAT Wire floor-warming wire system designed for use under many types of finished floor coverings, compatible with the LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat, and the LATICRETE Complete Floor Warming Kit, available in five popular mat sizes, that includes a LATICRETE Floor HEAT Mat, a LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat and WIRE EYE, the LATICRETE electric wire-fault indicator. www.laticrete.com
Nuheat, a leading manufacturer of electric radiant floor-heating systems of 25 years, launched its energy-conscious, next-generation thermostat, the Nuheat SIGNATURE, which incorporates WiFi technology. This easy-to-use thermostat allows homeowners to adjust heating remotely to save energy, monitor and control energy consumption, and view hourly, weekly, and monthly usage. With a quick reaction time, rooms and floors heat up within 30 minutes, allowing for zoneable heating to control warmth where it’s needed rather than overall central heating, thus saving energy. The thermostat easily connects to the home’s WiFi network for up to 16 multiple zones/rooms/homes. It is perfect for a vacation home – with WiFi controls, heat can be activated while you’re packing the car, and warm, luxurious floors are ready upon arrival! www.nuheat.com
RPM Mats are “the original” heat wire installation mat system. For nearly a decade they have been used as a backerboard-replacing, anti-fracture membrane, designed specifically to ease the installation process for all brands of electric in-floor heat wire. The unique stud placement and design allows for wire spacing at any 1/2” increment, while protecting the wire, during and after installation. Other benefits include: a thinner installation; easy cement leveling over wire; fast and easy wire layout adjustments; lightweight materials that cut with no dust; tough rating for automobile showrooms and shopping malls; and multiple flooring options other than tile can be used on top. RPM Mats are made in the USA from 80-90% recycled materials, available in 5/16” and 1/2” thickness. The new RPM-V1 mat features a vented design that rapidly accelerates the dry time of the adhesive, while offering the same benefits as the original RPM. www.rpmmats.com
Schluter-Systems has doubled the number of heating cable lengths available for its DITRA-HEAT floor warming system – now offering 34 different lengths to meet any floor warming need. DITRA-HEAT cables are easily snapped into place on top of the uncoupling mat with no clips or fasteners. The installer has complete flexibility on where the cables are placed so every installation is customized to suit the exact requirements of the owner. The system, just one year old, originally offered 17 different cable lengths for a wide range of project sizes. Now there are 17 cable lengths for 120V circuits and 17 for 240V circuits, including cables that can be used in a space as small as 10.7 sq. ft. so the floor of a very small bathroom, powder room, or entryway can be easily warmed with the system. www.schluter.com
SunTouch recently enhanced its WarmWire floor heating cables that use an electric wire to heat floors in bathroom, entryways, and kitchens. An affordable alternative to radiant-heated mats, WarmWire provides the flexibility to install easily around curves, angles and cut-outs to fit rooms of all shapes and sizes. Contractors can install WarmWire using self-leveler or thin-set, when WarmWire is secured using CableStraps. Recent enhancements give WarmWire a lower profile, requiring less thinset or self-leveler for installation. WarmWire is compatible with a variety of uncoupling membranes designed for use with heating wire. An installer can vary the wire spacing in these uncoupling membranes to reach a desired heat output. WarmWire comes with a 25-year warranty. SunTouch offers a full line of products to meet indoor and outdoor floor warming and ice melting project needs. www.suntouch.com
WarmlyYours Radiant Heating has created a one-stop shop for floor-heating system installations with its four new Installation Accessory Kits. The kits were designed to offer all the necessary tools to install a TempZone™ floor-heating system. The Installation Accessory Kits come in Basic, Silver, Gold and Platinum options, with each kit specializing in a different type of installation for trade professionals and do-it-yourselfers. The Basic Installation Kit includes a margin trowel and 3/8” notched trowel for spreading thinset over the heating element and back-buttering each tile for one-step installations. The Silver Installation Kit includes four tools – including an epoxy grout float – for one-step installations that include grouting the tile. The Gold Installation Kit features six tools for two-step installations that do not require underlayment under the heating element. Finally, the Platinum Installation Kit includes seven tools for two-step installations on a slab that require an underlayment under the heating element. Each kit offers a variation on these seven tools: a 3/8” notched trowel; 1/8” V-notch trowel; dense rubber float; epoxy grout float; margin trowel; finishing trowel; and kneeler board. Tools can also be purchased separately by those who already have their own tools. www.warmlyyours.com/floor-heating/accessories.
Warmset by PENROD is the next generation of radiant floor heating and its patented UL-certified technology delivers unequaled performance to both contractors and homeowners.
Easy to install: Warmset by PENROD is a ribbon-based system. Installation is fast and easy; simply unroll the ribbon mat.
Increased Energy Savings: The flat ribbon design and the reduced space between heating elements allows Warmset by PENROD to use significantly less energy than wired radiant flooring, cutting energy consumption by over 10%.
Strength and Reliability: The design has a robust structure that is strong and less susceptible to damage during installation and electrical shorting after installation compared to wire-based products. Warmset by PENROD is so durable that it will eliminate callbacks caused by damage.
More Comfortable Heat: With its electric radiating system transmitted evenly over the entire surface. “Warm-up” time is ten degrees faster than traditional products on the market. http://warmsetusa.com/
Warmup has introduced StickyMat to allow trade professionals to install electric floor warming quickly and easily. StickyMat underfloor heating is more than just a standard heating mat with pressure-sensitive adhesive – it uses a 1/8” pre-spaced wire with tough fluoropolymer coatings that provide inner and outer insulation for even surface heat distribution. The StickyMat is suitable for all new and renovation projects. The StickyMat enables a smaller contractor to install electric floor heating as fast as a larger company. In an internal testing environment, when using StickyMat against a similar product without pressure sensitive adhesive, the installation of StickyMat was 35% faster. Once installed, the project is completed by applying a layer of thin self-leveler over the mat and leaving it to dry OR by troweling a full bed of flexible tile adhesive directly over the mat upon which the floor tiles will be installed. Warmup offers a market leading 24/7/365 technical support service to give personal advice during and after installation. www.warmup.com