Electric Radiant Heat?

Hi all:
We’re remodeling our kitchen (complete gut) , and the idea was to replace the old steam radiator with electric radiant heat under a tile floor.

The plumber says that electric radiant is for just making the floor warm, and will not be sufficient to heat the room. He recommends using forced hot water radiant, which will require a new heating system for the entire house, making an already expensive proposition all the more costly (and profitable, from his perspective).

So, how about it? Any dopers have any experiences/horror stories about electric radiant heat?

Much obliged,


hot water floor radiant heat will heat the room.

i’ve seen electric radiant heat in bathroom floors as a floor warmer in addition to other heat sources in the room.

electric is very expensive heat. homes that used electric radiant heat cost a lot to heat and were not popular.

I’m am by no means an expert in this field, however, it sounds like bullshit to me. I can maybe understand an argument about use cost: that is, the cost of heating your kitchen with electric radiant would be more expensive than a boiler/hot water. But I don’t see how it would be totally incapable of heating the room. Both electric and hot water “just warm the floor” right? How can one heat the room and the other not?

We have electric radiant heat in our kitchen. However, we NEVER had a heating source in the kitchen. The adjacent room has forced hot water heating. Our kitchen is fine, and the floor nice and toasty in the winter. Except for the cold spot right in front of the range :mad: .

If you have radiators somewhat close to the kitchen in other rooms, I think you would be okay. Heck, if it gets too cold, bake cookies!

I guess it depends how much warmth you want and need in the room, but it seems to me that any warmed floor that is not too hot to walk upon comfortably is not going to warm the air in the room very much. Mind you, kitchens tend to get hot from the cooking, anyway.

Also, maybe it is the industry term, but radiant heat is a misnomer here. It is going to be primarily convective heat. A floor hot enough to produce significant radiative heat would burn your legs off.

Is it really safe to have electric heating elements under the floor of a kitchen, where liquids tend to get spilled?

Also, I would echo johnpost’s final point. Electric heat is usually expensive heat.

Friends of ours recently bought a house that has in-floor electric radiant heat in the kitchen.
Not only does it put out enough heat to warm the whole room, it also puts out enough heat to affect the thermostat, located 10ft outside of the kitchen.

Net effect, they were trying to heat the whole house via the kitchen floor.
Lesson - be careful how you use the in-floor heating in an open kitchen.

We have our bedroom heated by electric baseboards while the rest of the houses uses hot water baseboards driven by an oil-fired boiler. There is some small inefficiency when comparing the cost of heating oil to electricity, but since we can’t decide how to finish the floors in the bedrooms it’s less expensive than choosing the wrong type of floor and having to redo it. Your case is a little different. The electric floor heaters don’t look all that expensive, won’t leak, and you can just turn them off if you don’t want them. I’m guessing you want to recover the space being taken up by a radiator right now, so you just have to consider what alternative heating system you could use later on if you don’t like the electric floor heaters. But it doesn’t make sense that an electric floor heater won’t provide enough heat unless it’s very low wattage intended only to be a floor warmer. As long as it’s properly insulated, the heat will go into the kitchen. Possibly your electrical service can’t handle the additional load, but that’s the only limitation I can see. Unlike hot water radiant heaters you don’t have any concerns about leaks, worst case the electric element burns out and you’ve wasted your money.

I’d be a little surprised if there’s no way to do the same thing using your current steam system. Just running steam pipes under the flooring with some insulation underneath the pipes would seem to be sufficient.

kitchens can be hard to heat because there is no space for radiators or vents. vents are also inconvenient in a high spillage room.

there are kickspace (the pedestal the floor cabinets and sink sit on) heaters to give kitchen heat. these are either hydronic (heated by your boiler if you use hot water heat) or electric; either with an electric fan to circulate the heat. this is another style if you want to go electric.

i’ve got hydronic heat through baseboard and in floor radiant (kitchen, bathrooms, basement). hydronic is done at a lower temperature than steam. my in floor heat is run at a temperature lower than the baseboard, this by mixing cooler water from the return side of the system controlled by a thermostat valve. baseboard temperature is hotter then you want to stand on.

We have underfloor electric heating in our kitchen and hallway (which are linked by an arch). Total floor area of te heating mats is only about 6 square metres so it is not expensive to run and provides plenty of heat. Previously there was one electric storage heater in the hall and no heating in the kitchen and we find the underfloor much better. Plus there is nothing like the luxury of a toasty warm floor underfoot.

We don’t have hot water radiators anywhere, just electric, so didn’t have the option of hot water radiant systems, but we are very happy with it.

I’m sure steam is hotter than typically used, but I’d think running the pipes between joists with some air space around them and insulation underneath might work. You don’t need that much pipe, but the problem will be predicting the amount of pipes and air space needed to distribute the heat properly. That’s probably why it’s not done. Our kitchen is directly over the furnace (boiler) and has a hot water radiator in it. Before I had put in a newer more efficient furnace the radiator was wasted because excess heat from the furnace was sufficient to heat the kitchen. I want to take that radiator out to recover the space, but now I have to reconsider since the new furnace isn’t leaking so much heat anymore. With all the basement pipes insulated now I have to consider adding a zone in the basement to keep it warm enough (or just move the laundry upstairs because only my wife is complaining). I might consider something like running baseboards right under the kitchen floor, but it’s a small kitchen making this a little more practical to take a chance on. Anyway, the steam thing was just speculation. Just because something is theoretically possible doesn’t make it practical.

I like your point about the kickplate heaters, that’s another alternative to consider.

Yes, because it’s, you know, under the floor. :wink: Kitchens are typically tile or vinyl, both of which have sealed joints to prevent moisture from getting underneath. I wouldn’t install it under a wood product, as the drying effect of the heat could cause it to warp or become excessively dry.

Plus, it’s not just bare electric wire lurking under the floor. The heating element is covered with insulation (electric insulation that is!) and laid on the subfloor. Then the tile adhesive is spread on top, encasing the heating element, and then tiles are put on top of that.

I’d add that it’s important to make sure you have a proper subfloor underneath. Laying underfloor heating directly on top of floorboards, or on a surface that will flex, is a bad idea. (Tiling over such surfaces is also bad, of course.)

Right. I don’t know where the OP lives, but heating the kitchen shouldn’t be much of an issue in milder climates, and certainly there is no need to completely change out the home’s heating system to hydronic unless one is looking for long-term payback from the higher efficiency of that system compared to steam heat. Kitchens have stoves, toasters, coffee pots, the reefer compressor, etc., that all generate heat. Also, heat from the rest of the house doesn’t stop at the kitchen entry. There are relatively energy-efficient electric floor grids that shouldn’t jack up the bill by too awfully much, unless you forget to turn it off when you leave the room.

The system we use (Devimat) has a control panel on the wall that can either maintain a constant floor or air temperature, or have a fixed heat level, or, what we tend to do, have it on a timer so the floor is nice and warm in the mornings and evenings when we use the kitchen.

Thanks all for the feedback.
I find the responses from people with first-hand experiences to be heartening.
As I said, this will be a total gut of the kitchen, meaning that it will (finally) be well insulated, which should reduce the amount of energy required to heat it. We’re only talking about 200 ft[sup]2[/sup].

I have had hydronic radiant in a previous life and can attest to what has been said of the supply temperature versus forced hot water baseboard and steam. You only need it to be about 100 F to warm up the room nicely (and no, it didn’t burn my legs off).

I think I’m gonna run with it. If it doesn’t work, I will have spent the least amount of money.

Again, thanks to all.