Nothing says comfort like a toasty bathroom with heated floors to warm your toes. In homes across the United States and Canada, heated floors are becoming more and more common. But the question that most homeowners may ask is “are heated bathrooms simply an expensive luxury, or are they actually worth it?”
Heated bathroom floors are expensive to install, but offer homeowners much more than simple convenience. Heated floors are low-maintenance upgrades to your home that increase its value and decrease the costs of energy to heat your home. Heated floors offer better heating than HVAC systems, keeping your rooms warmer for longer.
If you have ever experienced a room with heated floors, the promise that they offer is tempting, even if the cost may make you shy away from considering an installation. But read on, and maybe once you see the advantages that heated floors offer, you may give the thought of heating your bathroom a second chance.
How do heated bathroom floors work?
A heated bathroom floor has a source of heating under the floor that radiates the heat. The heat is transferred to the floors directly through conduction, or the physical transfer of heat. The heated floors then warm the room up through convection – letting the warm air rise to heat up the rest of the air in your bathroom.
The concept of heated floors goes back to the Romans, who used their own version of radiant heating known as “hypocaust.” The way it worked was that a furnace just outside the house burned wood to provide heated air, which was conducted into the house.
The house had hollow spaces between the walls and under the floors. The warm air heated these spaces, which in turn heated the inside of the house.
The furnace, known as the ‘praefurnium,’ had the downside in that it had to be tended to regularly in order to work. There was also a challenge of moderating the heat, though homes using this method had a hot room known as the ‘caludarium’, from which heat would spread to the rest of the house at a more moderate pace.
Modern technology has changed things since then and made heating floors far more convenient. There are two ways that this is normally accomplished today: electric heating and hydronic heating.
As the name implies, this type of heating uses electric cables interwoven into mats that are then put into place under the flooring surface. One of the interesting features of this method is that the floor can be of any type typically found in your bathroom. These thin mats allow you to set your own temperature and take between 30 minutes to an hour to heat your floors.
Hydronic heating uses heated water that flows through tubes under your floor to heat it up. These tubes radiate heat through the plywood panels or mortar that surrounds them and can be used with most floor types as well.
The water that is used in hydronic heating comes from your hot water tank. One of the most interesting applications of this is that your entire house can be heated using this method as well.
A downside, when compared to the other method of heating your bathroom, is that this option is a little more expensive than electric floor heating. It will also take a little bit longer to heat your floors.
How warm can heated floors get?
Radiant heating methods can warm your floor temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature is usually set somewhere between 80 degrees to 85 degrees. Most systems will have a thermostat control so that you can adjust the temperature up or down for your personal comfort. Some systems will also have sensors equipped to assist you with maintaining the temperature at the desired level.
The temperature of the floor will usually be warmer than the temperature in the room. This is because your heated floor is using convection to warm the air, so heat will be lost through transference.
What are the pros of having heated bathroom floors?
There are many advantages to having heated bathroom floors, but the most significant benefits are that it adds value to your home, lowers your cost of energy, provides uniform heating, does not need much maintenance, and keeps your room warmer longer. There is no denying that heated floors are a luxury, but the benefits they provide turn them into a luxury that is hard to live without.
Higher Resale Value
Heated floors add to the value of your home. Luxury upgrades are usually recommended when selling a property. This is because buyers seeing those luxuries are more motivated to buy the house and are willing to pay more money for those luxuries.
Lower Utility Bills
Heated floors are more energy-efficient than HVAC units. It takes less time for the floors to warm the air than does an HVAC, and it takes less effort.This means that your energy bills will be lower overall.
And since you can regulate the room’s temperature, it means that you have control over when the room is being heated or not. If you are going to be away for some time, the floor doesn’t have to stay on, which means that you are not going to be out the cost of energy for a heated room that you can’t enjoy.
Because the warmth is localized to the floor of the room, the air will be heated more uniformly than an HVAC system is able to do. The heat from the floor will cause warm air to rise and cooler air to fall, only to be warmed by the radiant heat from the floor.
The heated air coming from your HVAC, by contrast, must travel some distance before it enters the room. Some heat is lost during the trip and will stay above the cold air longer because the warm air is lighter. This can cause cold spots, drafts, and uneven heating throughout your house.
Heated floors do not have these issues. You will always feel warm, from the tips of your toes on up.
Everyone likes low-maintenance luxuries. Heated floors are practically no-maintenance luxuries.
Heated floors do not need to be checked periodically for functioning, nor do they need to be cleaned.
Heated floors can last more than 20 years without ever needing a technician to tune them up for you. This means that you don’t have to worry about recurring maintenance payments.
Keeps Room Warmer for Longer
Since the air is being heated locally, the room is always going to stay warm. It also takes less effort to keep the air warm, which means that your room will stay warmer longer.
What are the cons of having heated bathroom floors?
The downside to the marvelous advantages that heated bathroom floors offer is the installation process itself, which is costly and will raise the floor height of your bathroom, and the fact that any repairs will require a licensed professional. Every silver lining has its cloud after all, and heated floors are no exception. Let’s run down these disadvantages for a more detailed look at them.
The Installation Process
Regardless of what type of system you install, your floor is going to have to be removed. The installation also takes time to accomplish, so you will not be able to use your bathroom until the installation is complete.
In addition, while you may put your floor back to what you had prior to the installation, you may opt to replace it with flooring that is more conductive. This is so that you can maximize the heat that is drawn from the system while minimizing the energy that it takes to heat the floor.
A new floor is expensive. Not only are you installing a new system, but you may also be replacing the flooring as well.
Electric heating systems are usually at a lower cost than hydronic systems but will cost more in terms of operating energy. A hydronic system is in the opposite situation – a higher installation cost, but lower operating costs. The good news is that either system will reduce the cost of your energy bill – the hydronic system is just better at lowering the cost.
Raises Floor Height in the Bathroom
Since your flooring is resting on a heating system, it will necessarily be higher than normal. The height difference can be an inch, though some systems can raise this even higher.
This is not necessarily a minor point. It can represent a tripping hazard and it may prevent your doors from working correctly due to clearance issues. Different systems offer different heights, so this must be a point that is considered when installing your new heating system.
Licensed Professional Required for Repairs
If your system breaks down or needs repair, then it becomes a problem that will require a professional. Due to the technologies involved, there are no simple DIY fixes. And while a professional can use tools such as a thermal camera to find the issue, part or all of your floor will need to be removed in order to get access to your system before the problem can be resolved.
How much can I expect to pay for a heated bathroom floor?
The total cost of installation averages out to about $3,800, though you can pay as low as $1,700 or as high as $6,000. If you decide to take on the entire house, your system can quickly begin to run into tens of thousands of dollars. By the square foot, you can expect to pay $6-$20 per square foot for your new floor heating system.
Your cost can vary by location and on what type of system you are installing. It will also depend on how many rooms you decide to upgrade.
An electric heating system will cost you on average less than the cost of installing a hydronic heating system. In fact, depending on the system, installation may be a DIY project that an advanced homeowner can take on. Electric floor heating systems will cost you between $6 to $20 per square foot.
A hydronic system costs an average of $8 to $15 per square foot. While this looks comparable to an electric system in terms of costs, consider that a hydronic system will likely require a boiler upgrade, and additional pumps and gas lines. The good news is that the cost per square foot goes down the more of your house the system runs through.
A hidden cost of installation is the labor involved in installing the system. Depending on the contractor and the size of the project, you can expect to spend $550 to $2,500 on labor.
It is probable that you may have to hire multiple specialized contractors as well, such as plumbers and electricians. The installation will also take time – about one day for every 2,000 square feet.
Finally, you will also have the costs of labor in preparing your floor and getting rid of the trash. You can save yourself on some of these costs by doing the labor yourself, but be prepared, because it can be exhausting.
How much does it cost to run a heated bathroom floor?
Depending on your system, you can expect your heated floors to cost you between $1 to $5 a day. However, heated floors can also reduce your energy bills overall, with savings between 10 to 30 percent reported.
It is difficult to get a sense of this without seeing some figures. So let’s put things into context.
On average, a portable heater will cost between $5 to $20 a day to heat the same space. The reason for this is that a portable heater will use more than three times the energy as heated floors.
Now let us consider a heated house. Granted, you will still need to use an air conditioner in the summer, but during the winter, heated floors can provide local heat to the rooms that you are in, warming them faster and more efficiently than your furnace can, and keeping those rooms warmer longer. It is little wonder then, that as a homeowner, you will see cost savings in your energy bill.
A heated floor installation can get expensive really fast, even if you are saving money in energy in the long run. But a heated floor is a personal choice, and you don’t have to heat your entire home that way. Even just converting your master bathroom will increase your home’s value.
If you decide to take on heated bathroom floors, you will have to contend with raised floors and an inconvenient installation process. In return, you will gain an effective, low-maintenance system that will decrease your power bills and keep you warmer than your furnace can. In the end, heated bathroom floors may just be one luxury you cannot live without.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.