Richard's Favorite Way to Heat

Condensing Gas Boiler diagram
Illustration: Ian Worpole

Radiant floors have changed the way Americans think about comfort. The principle is essentially the same as an old-fashioned radiator, except that instead of heating a large hunk of metal, the mass being heated is the floor itself, via hot-water pipes or electric wires under the surface. Not only is the heat more gentle and efficient, says Richard, it's more comfortable because humans prefer their feet to be warmer than their heads. "Forced-air heat does the opposite: it gives you cold feet and a hot head."

In-floor heating goes back at least to ancient Roman baths, where fires heated the air under stone floors. Modern in-floor heating uses loops of PEX pipe, either buried in poured concrete or fitted into grooved panels on top of a wood subfloor, as shown above. The same principle can be used outdoors to melt snow on a driveway or walkway.

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