4 Common Issues with Electric In-Floor Heating Systems and How to Avoid Them

1. The system does not produce enough heat or takes too long to heat up.

If thermostat is setup properly and activates the heating system as it’s supposed to, underlying issue may often be with the flooring itself. Insulation is critical for any type of radiant floor heating (RFH) system – electrical or hot water, and its’ job is to ensure that that the heat produced by the system will not sink into the flooring below.
Essentially, insulation acts as a barrier between the heated flooring (finished flooring + thinset + heating cable) and unheated flooring (such as cement slab), therefore limiting the thermal mass only to the portion of the floor that needs to be heated. Without it, the thermal mass becomes bigger, sometimes too big for the system to heat thoroughly, which not only reduces the temperature of the floor, but also impacts the utility bill.
There’s a variety of compatible insulation types on the market to choose from, with cement board and cork underlayment being the more popular.

2. The heating system trips the circuit breaker

Proper wiring is essential for the operation on an electric in-floor heating system. Circuit breaker type and rating are important aspects of the project and should not be ignored. Undersized or incorrect breaker will keep tripping until replaced with a proper one.
Although small, the possibility of damaged wiring also exists. It is therefore necessary to perform all resistance testing of the heating cable as advised in the installation manual during all stages of the installation process.

3. After flooring is installed, the system is not working

At only 1/8” thickness, even the most durable in-floor heating cable is rather delicate and can be damaged by dropping a heavy object on it or accidentally cutting it with a sharp object. Checking whether your heating cable or mat is functional is an easy process which involves measuring resistance using an Ohm-meter or a multi-meter. Resistance checks should be performed at every stage of the installation to ensure that there’s no damage in the cable. If any damages are located, they can be easily addressed at early stages of the project. The most critical checks are upon product arrival, after application of thinset or cement and after the flooring installation.

4. Utility bill is too high

A 10 Sq. Ft electric radiant heating mat uses only 120W of energy – nearly the same as a 100W light bulb. In many instances, if electric floor heating system is installed in a small to medium size bathroom or kitchen, it would cost under a dollar per day to operate and therefore will not have a big impact on the utility bill.
To maximize savings with an in-floor electric heating system, use a programmable thermostat instead of non-programmable. Instead of running the system 24/7, programmable thermostat allows the system owner to select desired heating time and exclude the time when heating is not required.
Simply installing a programmable type thermostat can save as high as 50-70% on electricity costs without sacrificing the comfort provided by the in-floor heating system.