Because altruistic ideas can often be impractical, I believe that the best reasons to use sustainable features in a home would be to save money or to get the pleasure of the occupants. (Saving energy is an important side effect.)
However, for a single feature that checks all 3 boxes, consider radiant heating. On a chilly, rainy day, there is nothing that feels better upon waking than putting bare feet onto a warm floor warmed with a radiant in-floor system.
Instead of rely on ineffective forced-air systems — that start with cold outside air, then must expend energy to heat it before transferring it inside — radiant heating uses a warm surface to transfer heat into a distance. It is similar to shining a light on a wall. As we learned in physics class, hot air rises, so a heated flooring shortly means a heated area.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of radiant heating systems, in line with the National Association of Home Builders: dry-system radiant tubing, with electric-powered tubes positioned above the floor and in between 2 layers of plywood, or beneath the subfloor; and hydronic radiant-floor systems, with looped tubes draining heater under the finished flooring. The water is warmed by gas, wood or oil boilers; solar water heaters; or even a combination of sources. Hydronic systems tend to be the most efficient, says that the U.S. Department of Energy.
Can you imagine anything cozier in the morning than putting your feet onto a shag rug, heated by radiant heat below the wood flooring?
An advantage of radiant heating for allergy victims: The absence of outside air transferred in and around a home can reduce allergies.
Tali Hardonag Architect
I’ve seen most radiant-flooring systems installed beneath concrete. However, the material you choose to install within the systems does not have to be strictly utilitarian. In one shore house, I found a 3-foot-diameter, shallow-metal compass rose installed flush to the concrete over the flooring system. Along with the concrete was dyed green.
The concrete flooring in this entry have slate leaves embedded in them, “to look as if they have only blown in,” says Tali Hardonag Architect.
Barker O’Donoghue Master Builders
If you don’t like the expression of concrete, wood is a stylish alternative to high systems, as in this San Francisco house by Barker O’Donoghue Master Builders.
Conrado – Home Builders
Besides concrete and woodsystems can be installed under tile. This 15,000-square-foot house in Saratoga, California, by Conrado Home Builders features radiant-floor heating throughout — even in this traditional-looking, tiled entryway.
There are several different types of installation systems for radiant-floor hydronic heatingsystem, as stated by the Radiant Panel Association. In a concrete-slab system like this one, tubing is held in place until the concrete is poured, at which stage that the tubes become permanently embedded in the concrete.
Other systems incorporate thin slab, subfloor plates, subfloor board, engineered subfloor, staple up and hanging in joist space. The Radiant Panel Association has just one caution for installing wood systems.
Photo by edgygrrrl via Flickr Creative Commons
Jacuzzi Home Spa Radiant Floor Warming System
For a quick radiant fix, install radiant systems beneath tiles in only the regions that you want rather than beneath an whole floor. This system by Jacuzzi has a control panel to adjust the temperature.
The Curved House, by Hufft Projects, includes flooring in my place: the toilet. There’s no demand for bathroom mats in rooms which are heated just like this one; bare toes measure onto warm tile.
One trick with glowing heating is to make certain it’s turned up or down according to the outside temperature.
I recently stayed at this stunning building, the University College at Oxford University’s boathouse, that has student rooms on the top floors. The building was heated with radiant flooring, except when I had been there, it was 70 degrees outside and we had all of the windows open because it had been so hot inside.
As with of green systems, if you’re not using them right, you’re not saving money.
Photo by Anders Sandberg via Flickr Creative Commons
In terms of the financial savings, glowing flooring is reported to save 20 percent to 40% in heating bills, according to the National Association for Home Builders.
Tell us What questions do you have about how radiant heating functions?
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