Should I try heated floor mats or rugs this winter?
September 15, 2019 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm tired of having cold toes in the winter. And so is my cat!

I live in a 100+ year old brick DC rowhouse, with hardwood floors, an uninsulated crawl space underneath, and a vacant, gutted house on the other side of my brick wall. It's freezing in the winter. Every spring, I think about dropping tens of thousands of dollars on heated floors, but yet again, I haven't gotten around to it.

Let's assume I'm doing all the other stuff like putting insulated plastic on the windows, dealing with insulation where I can, etc. Even with that, the 1st floor gets very cold, and with the heating vents in the ceiling, there's not much warmth getting to or staying on on that level.

I've been looking at both residential and industrial strength heated floor mats and rugs. I'm assuming that cutting down a little bit on the cold coming up from the hardwood floor will help the rest of the house stay a little warmer (and keep my toes from freezing). I have no experience with these and don't know anyone else who does either.

Has anyone else gone this route? I'm OK with my electricity bill going up, but any idea what to expect? Would they in any way damage my kinda-crappy wood floor? Any recommendations or anything else I should be considering?

My toes (and my cat's toes) thank you in advance!
posted by kinsey to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Every spring, I think about dropping tens of thousands of dollars on heated floors

If tens of thousands of dollars is your budget, why not look into getting some underfloor insulation fitted? With a decent layer of batts underneath it, your hardwood floor will pretty rapidly settle at your average indoor air temperature and should end up quite pleasant underfoot. This strikes me as a much more sensible use of funds than pouring endless amounts of expensive resistance heat into your crawl space through the flooring, even though some small portion of that will indeed wind up warming your toes.
posted by flabdablet at 10:05 AM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think your best bet is insulation or insulation plus underfloor radiators.
posted by janell at 10:17 AM on September 15, 2019

But if those are out of budget, I would go for regular (non-electrified) rugs on thick wool felt rug pads.
posted by janell at 10:18 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you don't already have one, a fan aimed to move the warm air from the ceiling vents down to the floor helps a lot. It obviously doesn't really warm the floorboards but it makes a lot of difference to my comfort in a room where the hot air comes in at the top. My fan blows up from the floor, moving the upper, warmer air down successfully; I don't have a ceiling fan though that might work better.
posted by anadem at 10:38 AM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thick fluffy non-heated rugs and infrared space heaters have helped me with this issue in the past. I assume you've tried that, but it's worth a shot if you haven't. I have had particularly good luck with this little heater and cheap faux-sheepskin rugs (both of which my cat adores, particularly in conjunction with each other).

A lot of the heated floor mats I'm familiar with (the ones that you see first in searches for these, too) are designed for installation in mortar / under tile or flooring, so you'd have to rip up the floors to use them. They can't go under mats or rugs or directly on your floors. The rubber heating mats that don't require installation mostly can't be used with rugs either -- often they're designed for use on concrete -- so you're walking around on warm rubber, which you and your cat may or may not find pleasing (they also often have a rather unpleasant odour). Most anything "industrial" is likely to have these drawbacks.

I assume you're thinking of something like this rug, though. If you're willing to drop a fair bit of money on the problem, that might work for a season. My experience with similar but smaller-scale heated things, like gloves and footrests, is that the wiring will break down pretty quickly. It's unlikely to get hot enough to scorch your floors, though you'd want to monitor the situation carefully and always turn it off when you're out of the house. You could try one to test out your heated floors concept and get you through this winter, then make a decision about installing better insulation and/or heating elements next spring, but I wouldn't splash out for multiple rugs until you've tried and liked one.
posted by halation at 11:11 AM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Have you tried a heated throw? They’re delightful. I have several, for use with my bed, sofa, and desk. I don’t recommend falling asleep on top of them as you don’t want your skin pressed hard into the wires, it can burn. Follow the directions.

The “mink” and “microplush” textures are great - soft and silky and they repel cat hair. They will look and feel nice for years.

AVOID the “Sherpa” texture (some blankets have a Sherpa side). It’s fake sheep wool and it feels amazing for the first couple days, but then, within weeks, it gets matted, which looks and feels gross, especially if you have a pet. The “fleece” texture is also bad- it gets matted and pilly, and looks cheap.

A heated mattress pad is also amazing.

Most small electric contact items I’ve used, including various blankets, a mattress pad, and some smaller heating pads, only last 1-2 seasons. The wiring doesn’t last. They’re priced accordingly.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:10 PM on September 15, 2019

LL Bean wicked good slippers and/or warm socks. A heating pad on low, on a timer, for the cat. Electric blanket with auto shutoff for the bed. Once I got down comforters, I stopped needing the electric blanket. I'm in Maine, and have wool rugs. Kitchen has a cold vinyl floor, I use floor mats topped with a washable rug. Even a thin yoga mat will help.
posted by theora55 at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, you should do this. I have a small heated mat for my office, and a larger under-rug heater in the LR. If your feet are warm, you will be warm, even if the rest of the house is at 58 F. You only use them when you need them and in the area that needs the heat, so they are actually not an irresponsible method for making yourself comfortable.
posted by bullatony at 1:22 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

We had heated floors, which was nice in the winter because it meant I didn’t have to wear slippers or risk stepping onto freezing tile. It didn’t feel “warm” though, it just didn’t feel like anything. And it was still freezing in the downstairs. So I’m not sure if heated floors will be enough to mitigate the cold.
posted by katypickle at 2:48 PM on September 15, 2019

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