Radiant in-floor heating can trace its origins all the way back to the Neolithic Era; archeologists have discovered remnants of under-floor heating in Asia and the islands off the shore of Alaska. The ancient people there would draw smoke from their fires through stone-covered trenches in the floors of their homes. The hot smoke would heat the stones and radiate throughout the dwelling.
The Romans used a system known as a hypocaust to circulate hot air through a system of pipes into a room and also under the floor. The earliest known use of a hypocaust was in 350 BC, in the legendary temple of Ephesus. The Roman hypocaust system is the direct precursor to today’s central heating.
Modern in-floor heating embeds hydronic pipes or electric heating elements directly under the floor. In the case of piping, hot water and anti-freeze is pumped through the pipes, thus, heating the floor. Conversely, cool water can be pumped through the pipes in the summer. On the other hand, electric heating elements can only provide heat.
While hydronic systems are more versatile, electric radiant in-floor heating is simpler to install. These systems can be installed at a mat directly under the foundation concrete.
An often-overlooked advantage to radiant in-floor heating is that it can eliminate the need for carpet in colder climates. While carpet is warm on the feet, it also harbors dirt, mold, and mildew. With under-floor heating, ceramic or stone tile becomes a cleaner alternative to carpet.