Radiant Heating Insulation For Concrete

Radiant Heating Insulation for Concrete

Radiant heating insulation plays a vital role in concrete radiant floor heating systems. Today’s radiant heating systems, water-based or electric, are built on the essential principle of heating the radiating material so it may warm the space above it. To enhance heating and minimize loss of heat as well, radiant floor insulation is provided for the system, using various materials but similar application principles. This article focuses on insulation for concrete.

A concrete slab is a large thermal mass. It will radiate heat in any direction once it has reached a warm temperature. A radiant heat barrier reduces the amount of heat lost in a concrete slab. The heat will rise up instead of escaping and dissipating into the ground below. Radiant heat is more efficient than heated forced air, but you can improve upon the efficiency of your radiant heat system with under slab radiant heat barriers.

Radiant heat insulators also can reduce the amount of moisture that migrates into a concrete slab. Products like The Barrier and Barrier X5 provide under concrete thermal insulation and vapor retarder. The Barrier has an R-Value of 4.0, and the Barrier X5 is between 5-10.3.

The higher the R-Value means there is a higher level of "thermal resistance." A higher number means a better insulator.

Another product that keeps the heat up is a foil based insulation system. Ultra Concrete Barrier - rFOILTM is an insulator where two layers Polyethylene bubbles surround the aluminum foil. This product also serves as an effective barrier for moisture and radon gas. It has an R-Value of 3.8.

Installing these insulators is relatively simple. You roll out the insulation on the ground where the concrete will be poured. Once the entire insulation mat is in place, you will need to build the grid and wrap your PEX tubing around on the grid. Finally, once the PEX tubing circuits are complete, it's time to pour your concrete. Once the concrete is set, you can activate the radiant floor heat. The finished product is a warm concrete floor that radiates heat up into the room instead of up and down into the ground.

The purposes of radiant heating insulation.

The consciousness on environment conservation led to the revival of the radiant heating systems. It has always been a great heating choice, but the start up costs can deter people. It takes time to realize the savings from radiant heat.

To further increase the efficiency and help reduce heating bills, radiant floor insulation is employed. The five major benefits include reduced heat loss through ground absorption, redirect heat to the floor mass, deflect cold from the ground, it can act as ground moisture barrier, and some types act as a radon gas barrier as well. It is a sensible idea as well as functional, and thus has been adopted as standard component of radiant floor heating systems.

Radiant floor insulation materials

There are several radiant floor insulation materials used in holding in the heat generated by radiant heating systems. One of them is extruded polystyrene (XPS) in a two-sided lamination of polyethylene film. Sometimes also called expanded polystyrene (EPS), this radiant floor insulation product is applicable in almost all requirements and floor materials, including over concrete application for tile, wood or carpet floors, as well as embedded in concrete slabs.

Plus, it is as effective even without any radiant heat system used in the floors just as a gas and moisture barrier, being waterproof. It does not rot easily, it's light weight and easy to work into structural formations.

Another product for radiant heating insulation is aluminum foil laminated by polyethylene closed-cell foam. In this product, it is actually the foil that reflects heat upwards and prevents its loss to the ground, and the laminate only serves to protect the foil from damage by moisture, chemical reaction, or mechanical action. However, the foam also serves as a vapor barrier, keeping off radon gas, for instance, from seeping through and into the building. Other benefits of this product is easy application, easy conformity to structural formation, and availability. Radiant floor insulation also functions to deflect the invasion of coldness of the ground into the radiant heating material.

In many cases, the simple styrofoam is also used with excellent results in the initial stages. However, since styrofoam disintegrates quickly without adequate protection, it is seldom used solo.

The product termed ‘bubble wrap’ is also known as radiant floor insulation. It is made of bubble wraps protected by reflective films of foil on both sides. It is also an effective radiant floor insulation with some limitations, among them disintegration of the foil laminates without adequate protective materials.

Radiant floor insulation approaches

Because heat goes to colder areas, radiant floor insulation is almost all the time placed under the heating element, often the concrete slab. It serves, on top of those purposes mentioned above, also as protection for the concrete slab itself, and prevent its earlier disintegration due to oxidation from soil gases and chemicals. However, heat often seeps sideways also into the adjacent soil through the slab edges. Therefore, most radiant heating insulation installers cover the sides of the slabs as well with the radiant heating insulation material.

In some cases, however, the radiant heating insulation material is placed over the concrete slab but under the radiant heating system network. One example may be a wood floor where the heating system is tacked onto the subfloor itself. In this case, the radiant heating insulation may be placed just under the system but over the concrete or ground surface.

Which radiant floor insulation to use?

As to which radiant floor insulation material to use, it depends on many factors. One may be whether you are renovating or constructing a new house. Other factors to consider may include the material of your floor, your location, the extreme temperatures your locality experience, your financial capacity, and the kind of radiant heating system employed. It is best to consult the professionals and know your options based on the conditions peculiar to you. Make sure you are speaking to people who specialize in radiant heat. A plumber or a concrete worker who has worked on a job once with radiant heat is not a specialist. Make sure you research who can do the job right so you end up with a flawless, and comfortable heating system.

To learn more or to purchase radiant heat insulation for concrete, click here for Radiant Heat Supplies.

Related Articles

- Radiant Insulation for a Subfloor
- Concrete Floor Radiant Heating
- Warmboard Subflooring for Hydronic Radiant Heat
- Radiant Heat Boiler

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