How to Install In-Floor Heat The Family Handyman

How to Install In-Floor Heat The Family Handyman

In-floor heat is easy to install and cheap to operate, and your feet will love it!

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Step 1: Overview

This in-the-floor heating system consists of one thin continuous cable heating element woven into a mat that you install under the tile. This makes it a project best done when overhauling or changing the floor covering of an existing room or when adding a new room. It can be installed as supplemental heat to take the chill out of the floor or as space heat to warm the entire bathroom. Its also a great project for warming entryway and kitchen floors.

    The benefits?
  • Its easy to install. You embed a cable-laced mat in the mortar when you lay the tile. If youre not comfortable with the wiring portion, hire an electrician.
  • Its safe. Once the heating system is installed, its nearly impossible to damage. The GFCI-protected thermostat instantly cuts power in the event of a short or other problem.
  • Its inexpensive to operate. At 12 watts per square foot, our 30-sq.-ft. mat drew 360 watts of power about the equivalent of an electric blanket or large TV.
  • It takes up zero space. Got a big, clunky radiator? Remove it and gain valuable square footage by installing this stuff.
  • How to Install In-Floor Heat The Family Handyman
  • Its versatile. If your existing furnace or boiler doesnt have enough oomph to heat a newly remodeled or added space, floor heat can do the job.
  • Its really, really comfortable. When your feet are warm, your entire body feels warm. Youll find yourself reading and playing games with your kids on the bathroom floor.

The downside? It cant be retrofitted under existing tile floors, the total initial cost of materials is high, and youll most likely need to run new wiring from the main circuit panel to the bathroom.

Step 2: Find electrical power

For a heated floor area less than 20 sq. ft. you could (in most cases) draw power from an adjacent GFCI-protected outlet without overloading the circuit. (If the thermostat you purchase is already GFCI protected like ours, you can use any outlet. In any case, the mat must be GFCI protected.) But a larger mat on an existing circuit a circuit that might also accommodate a 2,000- watt hair dryercan cause overloads and nuisance circuit breaker trips. For our larger mat, we elected to install a dedicated circuit with its own wiring and circuit breaker. Both 120-volt and 240-volt mats are available.

A programmable thermostat that turns the mat on during busy times, then off when youre sleeping or away, costs more initially but will save energy and money in the long run.

Step 3: Special-order your custom-size mat

Photo 1: Test the mat for continuity

Test the heating cable for manufacturing or shipping damage with a volt-ohm meter. The resistance reading on the mat label and the resistance registered by the meter should be within 10 percent of each other. If not, see the manufacturers instructions. Digital volt-ohm meters like the one shown are inexpensive and are easy to operate. » class=»step3enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH02DJA_ELECFL_02.jpg»> Photo 1: Test the mat for continuity

Photo 1: Test the mat for continuity

Test the heating cable for manufacturing or shipping damage with a volt-ohm meter. The resistance reading on the mat label and the resistance registered by the meter should be within 10 percent of each other. If not, see the manufacturers instructions. Digital volt-ohm meters like the one shown are inexpensive and are easy to operate.

Photo 2: Add cement board to the subfloor


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