Underfloor heat with tile: Yay or Nay?
January 10, 2009 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone tell me about underfloor heat with tile?

We are getting ready to replace the floors in our bathroom with new ceramic tile. At the tile showroom, there was a Danfoss demo system of an underfloor heating system. Basically, you put your thinset down, you put this mesh system with electrical wires down and then you put your tile on top of that, and the underfloor heat is controlled by a programmable thermostat. The system runs on 120 volt electricity.

Does anyone have this system? What do you think of it? What's been the increase in your power bill? Is it worth the hassle?
posted by FergieBelle to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We got a slightly different system. Instead of wire being embedded in a mat, ours used a spool of wire. The wire is like coax cable without the insulating jacket. Center conductor, insulation, outer wire braid. Same idea, though. Staple wire to plywood subfloor, put down scratch coat. When dry, install tile.

The supposed advantage is that the installer can make tighter loops and so concentrate the heat where it's needed. It's unbelievably great. On a cold winter morning the floor goes on a half hour or so before I get up, and it's toasty warm when I get in and out of the shower. I can't tell you before and after for electricity consumption as it was done as a part of remodelling our attic.

I'd caution you to find a tile installer that knows exactly what they are doing and has installed these systems previously. Our general contractor damaged one of the conductors and the system had to be serviced by the manufacturers representative.

I'd say, yes, I would do it again.
posted by fixedgear at 1:33 PM on January 10, 2009

We have the Nuheat system, which seems pretty similar, in our tiled-floor bathroom and it is fantastic. Love it. The cats love it too, so if you have any of those, they'll be grateful (in their feline way).

We have the thermostat set to start heating the floor a half hour or so before our usual (weekday and weekend) shower times, and then off when the last person's done. I don't believe it's increased the power bill by any noticeable amount. We didn't do the installation, but the guys who did didn't seem to have any difficulty - I think ours came as a sort of mesh mat - and parts of it were cut out to allow for the toilet, foot of the sink, and one area where feet don't go (under a cabinet). We're really glad we have it.

(Oh, and this is San Francisco, where it's more often than not cool in the mornings, and our quite traditional San Francisco Victorian flat has inadequate heating anyway.)
posted by rtha at 1:35 PM on January 10, 2009

Underfloor heating in bathrooms is worth it! The warm floor and heat rising up gives a whole different quality to the heat. The conventional wisdom is that if your feet are warm, the rest of your body will feel warmer as well, allowing you to have a slightly lower temperature in the room for a given comfort level, translating into a slightly smaller electricity bill.

A heated bathroom floor is one of those luxuries that's real easy to get used to, though.
posted by Harald74 at 1:49 PM on January 10, 2009

We had a system similar to this in our kitchen and sunken living room at a rental house and it was fantastic! It made a huge difference in the livability of the house in our, admittedly, wimpy northern California winters. And it made Sunday football awesome!

If I were putting down some new floors, I'd definitely try to budget in the heating system.
posted by fenriq at 1:59 PM on January 10, 2009

My parents installed this in one of their bathrooms. I'm not sure if their thermostat has a variable program (like, where it can be set to a schedule), but I know it's on at all times. They live in northern Oklahoma and are very stingy with their central heating, so I feel confident saying that it didn't significantly increase their bill (if it did, they would err on the side of saving money).

It's definitely worth it. I have terrible memories of growing up using that bathroom and walking on the icy floors in the middle of the night. Now, it's as pleasant as walking on the carpet in the hall. Maybe it's the temperature that they keep it at, but it doesn't really feel warm to me -- it just feels not-cold (which is nice; I think a truly warm floor would get stifling).

My parents absolutely love it, even several years later (I think they regret not installing it in their other bathroom, as they re-tiled them both at the same time). They also feel it increased the resale value of their house.
posted by transporter accident amy at 2:07 PM on January 10, 2009

It's very luxurious if you live in a cold climate. You won't know how much you want it until you have it :) Especially in the mornings.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:21 PM on January 10, 2009

Ours is hydronic, so I can't help with specifics, but: yes, yes, you (and any cats you may have) will love the results.
posted by bink at 3:03 PM on January 10, 2009

It is heaven. We have a very similar system but I forget what it's called. Sun something. It was wire in a mesh mat that we embedded in thinset. We did the work ourselves about ten years ago and it has worked beautifully. You can't understand how comfortable it is until you feel it, and I only wish we had it throughout the whole house.
posted by HotToddy at 3:49 PM on January 10, 2009

Pretty much what everyone else is saying, heated tile floors kick ass. They're like having electric blankets taped to the soles of your feet.
posted by Dr. Send at 3:57 PM on January 10, 2009

Ditto, ditto, ditto. I've stayed in hotels that had heated tile floors in the bathroom, and they were pretty much like chocolate-covered sex. Get someone who knows what they're doing to put it in for you, and you'll never regret it.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:13 PM on January 10, 2009

We had one in Norway and loved it. We used to like it so much, we'd curl up and read books on the floor :o)
posted by arcticseal at 6:06 PM on January 10, 2009

I've installed it in two bathrooms, and I wouldn't ever go back. I used the system (suntouch) that you actually run the wire rather than laying down a mat, since you can get closer spacing and more watts per square foot while still staying in the manufacturers recommendations. I have noticed no increase in the electric bills since generally I keep them at a moderate temperature and only kick them up (with a programmable thermostat) during the morning and evening.

It is ENTIRELY worth the hassle, and there's very little hassle. It will likely add about 1 day and $500 to the cost of your bathroom, depending on size and the cost of labor in your area. Here's a good website with more information: Warmyourfloor.com
posted by true at 6:10 PM on January 10, 2009

Ditto on all the greatness. As a bonus, it saved us the space of a large radiator in our very small bathroom. It may actually be costing us on the order of $20/month in electricity, but even so it's worth it.
posted by alms at 6:14 PM on January 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Guess we'll be getting this in our bathroom now, after this overwhelming positive response...
posted by FergieBelle at 6:19 PM on January 10, 2009

We installed ours about three months ago using the Warmly Yours system and words cannot describe how much we love it. Literally every single time I step into the room I feel happy. I haven't noticed a significant change to the electrical bill, but I'd be willing to sell plasma or my car or possibly an arm if I had to.
posted by Lame_username at 6:57 PM on January 10, 2009

The only thing I regret (and for which my cats would hate me if they understood this) is not putting it under more floors in the house when I had them re-done. It has not made a noticeable difference in the electric bills.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:37 PM on January 10, 2009

Another positive response here! We have the mat type, and love it. No idea on electrical bill changes, since it was part of a really big remodelling project, so no good comparison.
posted by Joh at 10:15 PM on January 10, 2009

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