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I would like to know if an electric or hydronic radiant floor is enough to heat the room or if it's just to have a warm floor. And if yes, what is the efficiency (the time it take to warm the room, the cost on the electrical bill, etc.) compared to an electric baseboard heater.

My question is general to any type of floor but if the answer depends on the type I use, I would say its for my bathroom (12' x 12') with ceramic tiles.

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3 Answers

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Well it depends on the output of the radiant floor, but in general yes they are sufficient to heat a room.

We have underfloor heating (hot water with heat spreader plates under floorboards) in our upstairs rooms and they warm the rooms quite well. The floors are warm to touch (as would be expected). The temperature of the room is more uniform the heat is rising from all parts of the floor rather than from one section of the wall. We don't feel we need additional sources of heat in the rooms.

The rooms do seem to take a little longer to get warm than other rooms with a radiator, but the wooden floors may contribute to this. If you are heating tiles in a bathroom then I'd expect that to be quicker and as quick as a radiator.

I can't give comparative costs, but our heating bills don't seem excessive when compared to other people's with similar houses.

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+1, we installed an entire home with radiant heat for a low income family. It was similar to yours (hot water and plates), powered by a continuous gas flame that would increase or decrease according to demand. But if it's an electric system for a bathroom floor, I would still want the room heated via the hvac or boiler. –  BMitch Sep 25 '11 at 0:17
    
Depends (obviously) on the winter temperatures in the area, but also (slightly less obviously) a lot on exposure to the outside. Interior rooms need a lot less heating, as there isn't much around them that they will lose heat to. In-floor radiant heating should primarily be positioned along the exterior walls of a building to help combat the incoming cold. This is not the most efficient way of doing things, obviously, but it will create the perception of uniform heating. –  Michael Sep 25 '11 at 4:20
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So much mis-information, so little time :)

With regards to the OP's primary question, yes, radiant (be it electric or hydronic) can be the primary heat for a room. The only way to know for sure is to perform a heat loss calculation for the space, then match the heating capacity of the system to the heating demand of the space. Makes sense, no?

Bathrooms can be a challenge. Depending upon the layout, bathroom floors can often be less than 50% of the actual space (due to tubs, toilets, cabinetry, etc. taking up floor space).

Hydronic systems are more expensive than electric systems to install and are generally not a good option for a single room - there needs to be a boiler of some sort, plus a means to distribute that warmed water to the room. Electric systems generate the heat right in the space and doesn't take up additional space for a boiler.

As to "green" - define "green". Electric radiant heat, by definition, is 100% efficient. If the source of the electricity is renewable, such as hydro, solar or wind, that energy source is much "greener" than a boiler burning gas or oil.

As for the "hydronic is cheap" comment - yes, it can be less expensive to operate than hot air systems simply because it is a radiant system and radiant systems are generally going to be more energy efficient than hot air systems. But if you want some hard facts, I invite you to visit my page where I describe two buildings of the same type - one uses electric radiant heat, the other uses hydronic radiant heat. The electric radiant heat system used 50% less energy than the hydronic system.

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Not generally a good idea to start off a response with a backhand insult to the other responders. –  The Evil Greebo Oct 6 '11 at 14:20
    
Hi, and welcome to Home Improvement. Please be aware that self promotion is frowned upon. –  ChrisF Oct 6 '11 at 14:23
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Hi Steve! I really like the information that you give to my question but its true that you shouldn't start by telling that the others are wrong. If people like what you say, they will upvote your post and you will gain visibilities. I suggest you to edit your post and ajust it. –  Alexandre Jobin Oct 7 '11 at 13:28
    
Well, I liked what he said and understand he was just clarifying the use of terms of "green" and "efficient" or "greener." I just want to see his web page. And if it's been erased, I am sad. If it's good information, why can't we make our own judgments? –  user12113 Mar 18 '13 at 20:43
    
@Toodd because we'd have a site full of spam. The link is still visible in older edits and in the user's profile. Had it been me, I likely would have deleted the entire message, most users of the site don't want spam. But if you'd prefer that we keep spam and let you decide what to read, feel free to suggest that in meta. –  BMitch Mar 18 '13 at 21:15
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The question is about electric radiant floor heating. I, too, have hot water radiant floor heating...it is CHEAP, and the MOST efficient way to heat a room. The electric floor "sheets" that are put down prior to tile, are not an efficient way to heat an entire room...very expensive to run for a long period of time, and not "green". However, it is an excellent way to take the chill off tile, and perhaps make you feel a bit warmer by standing on a warm floor.

I would suggest you put the electric floor heat on a spin timer. You know the kind, turn it on when you enter the room...or just prior, it will run for a set amount of time (say 20 min) and automatically turn off.

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If you team it up with a large solar hot water system, it's almost free. :) Takes a lot of storage if you want the solar hot water to last through the night, though... 300+ gallons, IIRC. :S –  Michael Sep 26 '11 at 13:09
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@Michael, you can help that along by having a fair amount of thermal mass in the room itself. Books work well! –  Alex Feinman Sep 26 '11 at 15:14
    
I don't have enought space to install a water radiant floor (i think) and i guest that you are all right that the electric might not be enought to heat all the room. I will have to make more search on that since that i'm in the province of Quebec, Canada and our winter season can be -35 degree celcius sometimes :) –  Alexandre Jobin Sep 26 '11 at 23:35
    
Just a little note, my question wasnt specific to electrical or water radiant floor. In fact, i didnt knew that there was different kind of radiant floor! I will correct that right away. –  Alexandre Jobin Sep 26 '11 at 23:39
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