A major complaint concerning tile or stone floors is that they are cold. Radiant heat installed in your ceramic tile or marble floor solves this problem by heating the floor surface radiating heat upward into the living area. This natural heat transfer is both more comfortable and energy efficient.
The appeal of radiant floor heat is that it is truly invisible as waves of thermal radiation rise from below the surface of the floor. Unlike conventional heat which rises to the top of the room then drops when it cools, the warm air from the radiant floor heat rises but does so evenly over the entire floor surface so the coolest air stays at the ceiling and you do not get a fluctuation in temperature. Radiant floor heating systems are often called Low Temperature systems since the heating surface is much larger than other heating systems and a much lower temperature is required to achieve the same level of heat transfer. This provides an improved room climate and healthier humidity levels preventing the air from becoming too dry. It also limits possible allergic reactions from dust circulating through heating ducts. Radiant heating systems can warm floors to temperatures of 75 – 80 degrees.
There are 2 methods of supplying radiant floor heat. One is through hot water, the other is through electricity. Electric radiant heat is the most popular since it is less expensive to install for ceramic tile and marble floors. Electric radiant floor heating uses heat-conducting plastic mats or mesh fabric containing coils that are warmed by electricity. The coils are resistance wires made of copper or nichrome wrapped in a water resistant polymer. Nichrome (alloy of nickel and Chromium) is ideal for producing heat as it has a high electrical resistance. The wires are zigzagged through a mat and then wired for electricity. The principal is very similar to that of an electric blanket. The radiant heat mats are embedded into thin set cement on the subfloor before the finish floor is installed. The RFH system is usually controlled by a switch or automatically through a thermostat. And since the heating coils are installed between the subfloor and floor itself the floor surface is heated very quickly.
After the radiant floor heating mat is installed the finished floor is ready to be placed. Materials with thermal conducting properties are most suitable to use for the finished floor when applying radiant floor heat. That is why when installing a ceramic tile, slate, marble, or granite floor consideration should be made in applying radiant floor heat. These natural materials conduct, transfer and hold heat effectively while withstanding high temperatures. Just as tile and stone hold the cold these materials will also hold the heat.