Heat rises. You lose its full benefit in force-air heating. Ductless mini-splits, too, tend to heat the air near the ceiling. If you are looking for the most comfortable and energy-efficient heating system, you want to think hydronic radiant heating.
Such systems distribute warmth at your feet where it is needed instead of the ceiling above your head. More effective than forced-air heating, the radiant heat reduces allergens and energy costs. As Energy.gov says, “Hydronic (liquid-based) systems use little electricity, a benefit for homes off the power grid or in areas with high electricity prices.”
Canada recently took the lead in developing a national standard on hydronic heating systems with its CSA International B214-01 Installation Code.
How it works
The popular and cost-efficient hydronic (liquid) systems pump hot water from a boiler through tubing installed in zigzag patterns under the floor. And, some systems let you control temperatures in sections or individual rooms of your home or business.
You will want to avoid wall-to-wall carpeting and vinyl flooring. Heavy carpeting just insulates and reduces the heating benefit. And, vinyl will discolor and stain with time.
With heat radiating from beneath and wear and tear on the top, your natural wood or manufactured floors need special attention to remain solid and lasting.
5 tricks to keeping your floors solid:
1. Tap water is not your friend.
Most tap water has chemical and mineral elements that will leave water stains and buildup on natural, engineered or laminate wood floors. Using distilled water should reduce streaking and those mineral marks.
2. Vinegar cleans everything — except woods.
Vinegar is acidic and will destroy the finish on your flooring over time. It will dull the look and soften the finish on some materials making the boards sticky.
3. Flooring loves alcohol.
Denatured or rubbing alcohol disinfects and cleans. With no pH factor, it preserves and protects. Added to distilled water and a mild liquid detergent, it makes an effective and safe cleaner.
4. Let the floor float.
Floating floors are installed as a unit, usually in new construction. That makes it free to move as a total unit. This ability to move accommodates subfloor movement and changes in moisture and temperature.
5. Avoid the gaps.
Quarter-sawn flooring wood prevents side gaps between boards. And, rift-sawn boards expand upwards with the grain to reduce side-to-side movement. Both assure more solid and lasting flooring.
The plumber’s role
Hydronic radiant heating is not a DIY project. It involves water, pipes, pumps, and valves. So, you need a certified plumber to work with your heating pros to install, repair and maintain your system.
You need experience with hydronic systems, solar and thermal systems, and water-to-air heat physics. And, emerging technologies are putting access to and control of your home heating system on your smart devices.
A plumber in Toronto will start from the bottom up. In light of the frequency of flooding in Ontario, qualified plumbers will protect your basement from flooding, backflow, and clogged drains. And, that includes protecting the personal contents and the systems that support your hydronic radiant heating system.