We believe that the best reasons to use sustainable features in a home are to save money or for the pleasure of the occupants. (Saving energy is an important side effect.)
But for one feature that checks all three boxes, consider radiant heating. On a cold, rainy day, there’s nothing that feels better upon waking than putting bare feet onto a warm floor heated by a radiant in-floor system.
Rather than rely on inefficient forced-air systems — which start with cold outside air, and then must expend energy to heat it before moving it inside — radiant heating uses a warm surface to transfer heat into a space. It’s much like shining a light on a wall. And as we learned in physics class, warm air rises, so a heated floor soon means a heated room.
In general, there are two types of radiant heating systems, according the National Association of Home Builders: dry-system radiant tubing, with electric-powered tubes positioned above the floor and in between two layers of plywood, or under the subfloor; and hydronic radiant-floor systems, with looped tubes pumping heater water beneath the finished floor. The water is heated by gas, wood or oil boilers; solar water heaters; or a combination of sources. Hydronic systems tend to be the most efficient, says the U.S. Department of Energy.
Can you imagine anything cozier in the morning than putting your feet onto a shag rug, warmed by radiant heat under the wood floors?
A benefit of radiant heating for allergy sufferers: The absence of outside air moved in and around a home can reduce allergies.
As for the financial savings, radiant flooring is reported to save 20 percent to 40 percent in heating bills, according to the National Association for Home Builders.