Winter months are a great time for homeowners to consider an electric floor heating system. However, for many professionals, only a small portion of their projects involve electric floor heating (although growing as floor heating gains popularity). With my 20 years of electric floor heating experience, I’ve rounded up these tips for first-timers:
1. Measure, Measure, and Measure Again
Electrical resistance generates heat for floor systems. To ensure correct operations, supply the floor heating provider with the correct dimensions.
Pay particularly close attention to not only measuring the width and length of the room, but also the locations of air vents or fixtures like showers, tubs, and vanities. Heating elements are only installed in the areas where people walk.
2. Work with Your Floor Heating Provider
It’s likely that the company you purchased the system from is staffed by radiant heating experts. Lean on their expertise. Besides general questions, your provider can help pair your floor covering with the right heating system.
Additionally, the provider might have floor heating services available, such as 24/7 customer service to help answer any on-site questions or even installation services.
3. Never, Ever, Cut the Heating Wire
Whether it’s a cable, mat, or roll, all electric floor heating elements have essentially two major components: the heating cable and the cold lead. The cold lead can be trimmed, but the heating cable itself should never be cut. If cut, the heating element must be replaced or repaired, costing more time and money.
Pro tip: When installing a mat or roll, protect cables by installing them with wires facing the subfloor and mesh facing upward. This protects the wire from incidental contact with trowels and floats during installation.
4. Install a Second Sensor
Instead of installing one floor sensor (many floor heating thermostats will come with one), install a second that you leave unconnected. Having this backup is a lifesaver if the original sensor fails. It’s much cheaper than pulling up a section of your floor.
5. Have a Licensed Electrician Make the Connections
It may seem like common sense but a licensed electrician should make the final connections for the system. It’s the safest and most efficient option.
6. Wait Until the Adhesive Cures
Most floor heating systems are embedded in thinset or a self-leveling compound. Turning on the heating system before the adhesive fully cures is a common problem. This can cause the thinset or SLC to become brittle, resulting in popped tiles.
To avoid this, refer to the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions and wait until the time period they suggest has passed before turning on the system.
These tips don’t cover everything, but provide a good knowledge base to work with. Floor heating isn’t nearly as complicated or daunting as it might seem, and the level of luxury and comfort it provides customers is worth the additional education.
Julia Billen is the president, owner and co-founder of WarmlyYours Radiant Heating. For over 20 years, she has been at the forefront of innovation for the radiant heating industry. Billen is an active member of several governing committees and panels for the industry, including the UL Standards Committee, the US Technical Advisory Group, the Flooring Technical Standards and Issues panel and many more. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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Get it right
You better include restrictions in your article regarding who can legally install floor heat. I don't know about every state but in WA it is a requirement that cable heat is only installed by licensed electricians. It's not fair and I have never met an electrician willing to do it but that's the rules until people with better common sense change the laws. First time you're busted it'll cost you $1000.00.