Electric Radiant Floor Heat

by Owen Sechrist

    The latest craze in bathroom remodeling is toasty warm tile floors for your piggies.  On a recent kitchen remodeling project we took things a step further:  electric radiant floor heat as the primary heat system.     STEP Warmfloor(tm) manufactures cutting edge floor warming and floor heating systems.  Unlike many of their counterparts, Step uses an electro plastic heating element rather than a cable to heat the floor.  The entire mat, although plastic, is the heating element. Radiant Floor Heat     Here is a picture of the mats.  They are about 1/8 inch thick, and as you can see about 1 foot wide.           Installation of the mats themselves is fairly easy.  They can be cut with a pair of stout scissors or shears to exact length.  Duck brand poly tape can be used to fasten them to the subfloor, however, we strongly recomment stapling the mats with a narrow crown pneumatic stapler so you can fasten them tightly and stretch them out flat.  A flat cable running down each side of the mat is the only part of the mats you must not puncture.     After fastening the mats we connect wire leads to each wire on one end of each mat and run the wires through the subfloor where the transformer, terminal boards and regulator will be located.  From there our electrician Shane Jordan takes over.  This system is definitely not for a DIYer, it is a technical and complicated electronic system.  Here is a picture of Shane Jordan of Jordan Electric up to his elbows in wires and transformers:

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    The componenets of the system are very high quality.  The transformers are warrantied for 10 years which is unusually long for a transformer.  Traditional transfomers have a high starting current which creates a surge higher than nominal current.  STEP transfomers have a parrallel connection that reduces the surge.  This allows them to operate much more efficiently than a conventional transformer.     After the system is connected Shane takes readings and records amperages to insure that the system has been installed properly and to qualify it for the manufacturers warranty.  This step must be performed by a licensed electrician.     Afterwards we begin with the next step of the flooring process: pouring a layer of leveling compound over the heat mats to form a flat level substrate for the tile installation.  In the following pictures you can see artisan tile setter Mike Hannah and his right hand man Raphael carefully forming up the edges of the floor with masking tape and wood.  Mike then trowels out a very runny leveling compound: img_0277

img_0278             This system will create an extremely even and comfortable heat and is very energy efficient.  It is an excellent solution to creating radiant floor heat in 1 or 2 rooms when a boiler is undesirable.  It is also ideal for connecting to a solar system since it operates at 24 Volts.  When run on a battery backed up solar electric system the costly transformers can be eliminated from the system.

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