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5 Things to Know About Electrical Radiant Heat

There is nothing like stepping onto a tile floor, but your toes are shocked to feel the warmth as opposed to cold tile. Radiant heated floors are a luxury, and well worth it on those cold mornings in the Northwest. It’s no wonder why bathrooms are the most common room to add radiant heat. If you’re thinking about a bathroom remodel, consider adding electrical radiant heat to your floors to create the ultimate retreat.

How does it work? Electric heating coils are set on top of the cement backer board and under the tile. The heat from the floor warms the space from the ground up. There’s a programmable thermostat on the wall to control the temperature. You can schedule it to turn on at a specific time, so it is comfortable on your toes since tile is usually cold.

Here are five things to know about electrical radiant heat:

1) Radiant heat helps dry out your bathroom.

“The main draw is that no one wants cold feet. Everybody knows that,” said Robert Wood, Owner/President of Mountainwood Homes. “But the secondary benefit is that it helps to dry your bathroom. Normally, it would take all day to dry your shower from water drops. Radiant heat will warm up everything in the room including towels, and your shower will dry in a couple of hours.”

Unlike forced air where the air is blown on you, radiant heat is different. It heats the floor and then transfers the heat to the rest of the room and the things around it. Naturally, heat moves upwards as opposed to a vent located in the ceiling does not naturally move heat to the floor. It makes sense to add radiant heat to a small area such as a bathroom.

“I’m a big fan of removing moisture out of a moisture-laden space,” Robert adds.


2) You’ll need a dedicated circuit.

You will need a dedicated circuit for the electricity if you want to add radiant heat to your bathroom. Often, we are removing a jetted tub so there is a spare circuit freed up or a circuit may be available from another part of the remodel which would be a cost savings scenario. Getting the wire from the panel to the bathroom can be one of the more costly parts of installing radiant heat.


3) It takes time to warm up.

Most people have only good things to say about radiant heated floors, but there is one drawback – it takes time. Unlike forced air, radiant heat is not instant. It takes a bit of time for the space to heat up. Since it runs off a separate, programmable thermostat, homeowners can set it to come on at certain times. For example, if you get up at 6 am, set it to 5:30 am so the floor is warm when you step into the bathroom. You can also program it to turn off when you are out of the house, so it does not waste energy when no one’s home. Some homeowners set it for the evening when they are home to maximize enjoyment. There are newer products that have Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats which are programmable on your phone to provide the ultimate convenience.


4) This option adds a few days to the construction schedule.

Adding electric radiant heat to your bathroom remodel will add a couple of days to the construction schedule. More work equals more time. There are different ways to apply radiant heat. First, it is common to press the wire into the channels on radiant heated mats. This easily secures the wire at predetermined intervals typically 3 inches apart. The mat is purchased based on the square footage of your bathroom. Another method is to install the cable over plywood, backer board, or concrete slab, and then embed it in a thin-set mortar. Once the wires are embedded onto the mat, it is inspected by an electrical inspector. It must dry before the tile setter can spread mortar over the top of it. Finally, the tiles can be set on top. If you want to add radiant heat to your bathroom remodel project, expect an additional 3 or 4 days.

Sun Touch radiant HeatMatrix diagram

5) The electrician and the tile installer install radiant heat.

Installing radiant heat is handled by both the electrician and the tile installer. The electrician will get the circuit set up and provide wiring and conduit from the panel down to the floor. The tile installer is the one to set up the mats and wires and spreads the mortar over the top to prep the area for tile. Hard surfaces are conductive for radiant heat. They can be installed under tile, concrete, hardwood floors, and other materials. We have had clients use it in their kitchens and living spaces. It does not work well with carpets or under thick rugs.

Installing electrical radiant heat mat in bathroom remodel

Radiant floor heat is not only used on the floor. We also run them in the shower floor for a curbless shower or up and over the curb, as well as on top of a shower bench too. Curious how much electrical radiant heat will cost? Expect to spend $1800-$3500 for a typical master bathroom depending on the room size and where you’re going to run it.

“We’ve never met anyone who said they regretted adding radiant heat,” said Robert. “I have gotten a few calls from clients who said, ‘I wish we would have put it in’ right after they finish their brand-new bathroom. If you’re going to do it, do it now while we’re remodeling.”



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