Radiant Floor Heat – A Review
I often get questions about my radiant floor heat and I realized I never reviewed it… So here we go!
Was it ‘worth it’ – It certainly served its purpose as a learning project, I learned how to install and operate it, I have no regrets about adding the thermal mass in the floor (and the extra axle that came with accommodating that). For me this was a learning project and I have indeed learned!
Now, Would I do it again? – Naw. I would not.
The radiant heat is not the most efficient way to heat the tiny house. Radiant heat is generally efficient because it heats your feet, generally if your feet are warm you are warm so you can actually keep the heat a little lower and heat rises so it uses heat more efficiently than heating high air like some other set-ups. In a small house, especially one with two doors there is a lot of thermal bridging where the thresholds meet the floor. There isn’t enough square feet to make up for that deficit, at least in my place. This makes for a cold space unless heated (paid for) in winter. I DID use electric rather than hydro or just straight solar to heat it. I have made it so that, unless I pay to heat the floor I have to deal with an ice cold floor, which is not great for babies to crawl around on (or my feets for late night bathroom runs!). I found that because of this I have turned it on before I actually would have turned my heat on otherwise so my heat cycle has been extended.
Frankly there are much cheaper ways to heat a tiny house. I found it to be MUCH better in summer actually, I do night flush ventilation, wake up, shut the doors and windows and it helps it to stay nice and cool even when it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s been in the upper 90’s+ and I CAN go all day with no A/C (I have an A/C unit as backup forHazel). I wished I would have done something else for heat in the first winter though. I have made other plans for this winter and am trying out a propane stove as well as an Envi electric convection heater. Both of which I will be updating about over at www.Planningtiny.com
Now- Just because I am not a fan of the radiant floor doesn’t mean they don’t have merit. This COULD be different if it was hydro or solar. The problems with those in a tiny though is 1) things move more than in a true foundation and it’s possible to crack a pipe and have big problems with hydro, I marked hydro off early for this reason unfortunately, it is really what I wanted… 2) Collecting solar heat gain is a double edged sword. You have to have a high solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) on your windows which allows heat to come in. Most windows intentionally want to block heat gain so there would need to be special windows ordered (possibly costly). That sort of a system is generally only good to be placed one very specific orientation, if you park off from that you mitigate all benefits and open yourself up to issues. Both solar and hydro should be very carefully considered.
I guess in short I would not suggest trying to capture solar heat to heat your space unless you are on a true foundation, same with a hydro set-up. That all being said it is possible, it is just something to be super calculated about.
Most importantly maybe, heat systems don’t seem to be a problem at all, I live in a very cold climate, until it gets about 10 degrees outside my dog, my laptop and myself are pretty much sufficient for heating the house. It is a small space that really is pretty passively heated just by the nature of it.
COOLING is another story and thermal mass has been SUPER helpful for that!
If there are any other questions please feel free to leave a comment and I will answer it to the best of my ability for you and any others interested in the topic!