In a Finished Basement
"Any basement that will have a family room, playroom, or workshop should have radiant," says Richard. If the basement will get a concrete slab, the PEX can go down before the pour, attached to a wire mesh or clipped onto rigid foam insulation. The flooring then goes right on top of this slab.

If there's already a slab in place, the tubing goes over it, using the same low-profile panels used for a second-floor retrofit. Then you can finish the flooring in the same way you would on a second floor, or you can pour lightweight concrete over the panel. "Covering the tubing with lightweight concrete or gypsum concrete allows its heat to be absorbed by the concrete's thermal mass. It also protects the tubing, but it raises the finished floor height," says Richard. "So you'll need to adjust every door opening."

In the end, the Newton homeowners decided to put the radiant under the entire first floor and under a second-floor bathroom, but left it out of the basement. The installation will add to the cost of upgrading their heating system, but in the cold Northeast climate they'll see the savings in the first energy bill of the winter. However, says Richard, monetary payback is not really what radiant's all about. "There's no question that it's the most efficient way to heat and has the lowest operating costs," he says. "But the main reason you do it is for everyday comfort."

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