The Problem With Traditional Radiant Heating
Below are some of the inherent issues of other types of radiant systems. While hydronic (hot water) tubing systems and wire cable/mat systems solve some of the same issues as conventional heat system designs, there are still inherent design barriers that remain difficult, or costly, to overcome. All radiant systems, STEP HEAT included, heat the surrounding mass. While hot air rises, heat moves to cold in a 360 degree direction. By properly directing the heat up through the floor and into the room from floor to ceiling, the heat distribution is much more even, balanced, and draft-free. As for comfort and efficiency, how the heat is created and distributed underneath and across the floor makes a big difference in overall system performance as well.
Surface Area Coverage
The typical effective heated underfloor surface area of a hydronic tube or electric wire cable/mat system is only 2-5%. To warm the surrounding gaps between the tubes or wires, the temperature must be significantly elevated to achieve even heat distribution across the entire floor which consumes more energy.
Electric wire cable and mat systems create heat by applying higher voltages to a small, thin, copper wire using the principle of electric resistance. When line voltage is applied to the cable or mat, it typically heats the internal copper wire to a constant 135 degrees F. It is well documented that electric resistance heating consumes a much higher level of energy compared to other forms of heating. As the wire temperature itself cannot be regulated when operating, certain flooring types such as carpet, wood and laminates can be easily damaged by extreme temperatures and continuous thermal cycling
For hydronic systems, the hot water temperature can range from 85-130 degrees F depending upon application, flooring type, and tube depth under the finished floor. When lower operating temperatures are required, the decreased heat output must be supplemented with additional tubing runs. All hydronic systems create the heat remotely in a central location that must be distributed to the heated space which creates heat loss inefficiencies.