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Radiant flooring heat, its history and benefits

Radiant floor heat is a great option for all kinds of different homes. And it’s been around for a long time, but used differently as the technology had developed. While the origins of radiant floor heating go way back in history, the technology has come of age only recently.

Now, it works as well as any other modern system, if not better, and operates at least 25% more efficiently than forced-air systems, the most universal kind of heating in the United States. Increasing numbers of consumers are choosing radiant heating, not only for the energy savings it provides, but also for its indoor air quality benefits and its ability to free homeowners from the tyranny of radiators, baseboards, and vents. That said, many ask why radiant heating isn’t in more American homes, especially seeing its popularity in other places around the world; Europe and Asia, 40 and 80% of dwellings, respectively, are heated by a radiant system. It’s because it didn’t start out as a viable option for many people.

Radiant heating goes back centuries. The very first radiant heating systems appeared in the Roman Empire. In the wealthiest citizens’ homes, the walls and floors were reinforced by slim chambers called hypocausts. Fires around the building fed heat into these hypocausts, which in turn heated the home’s interior. Around the same time, on the other side of the world, the Korean ondol system heated homes by means of cooking fires that transmitted heat from the kitchen to a series of purposefully situated stones. These stones would absorb the heat and slowly emit it outward. Though primeval compared with the finely tuned, zero-maintenance radiant-heating products available today, the fact that the basic technology has been around for so long tells you how logical it is to use it now.

Here in America, it was architect Frank Lloyd Wright who first introduced the concept of radiant heating to countless homeowners. The Chicago native, known for his prairie designs, was ahead of his time in several ways, so it was not until years after his death that radiant heat finally became a more prevalent heating option.

When environmental fears arose in the 1970s and 1980s, people started testing out various nontraditional methods of building. In these new efforts, the principles of radiant heating were often aligned with solar power. A typical setup would put a concrete floor, painted a dark color, beneath a sunny south-facing window. Throughout the day, the sun would heat the concrete, and then as night came and temperatures dipped, the concrete would radiate heat back into the home. That worked fine for supplemental heat, but it could not heat a whole house through the winter season.

Want to know more about HVAC history and trivia? Click here.

And remember, if you don’t have heat in your home, call our 60 Minute Men. We’ll be at your home in 60 minutes or less or we’ll give you a $60 gift card towards services or repairs. Call us at 847.509.2024. We service homes all over the North Suburban area, including Northbrook, Glenview, Highland Park and Evanston.

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