Weekend Digest: Best thermostats for radiant heating—which ones to buy this winter
Do you have or are you considering getting a radiant heating system for your home or office? If so, you're going to want a thermostat compatible with it. Today we take a look at what radiant heating systems are and the kinds of thermostats that will work with them. Read on to learn more!
For many of us, winter is coming, if not already here. If you live in a region where the temperature is dropping, you may want a new thermostat for your home heating system. Plenty of thermostats exist that efficiently handle standard heating systems like central furnace-based or heat pumps and other HVAC-type systems.
Similar to furnace-based and heat pumps, HVAC systems create hot air and circulate it throughout your home. While they typically do an excellent job of ensuring a warm and comfortable environment, they generally don’t succeed at heating floors.
This results in cold floors or perhaps even that feeling of a draft at ankle level, despite having your heat cranked up to the point where your neighbors wonder if you’ve managed to lasso the sun into your backyard.
What is an underfloor radiant heating system?
So what is the solution to this chill-inducing problem? Underfloor heating, of course. This is a heating system underneath flooring to ensure that the desired temperature stays consistent during those bitter winter months.
There are generally two different kinds of systems that can install to produce underfloor heating. Hydronic-radiant, or water-based, heating is the first. The second, probably not surprisingly, is electric-based. Heated floor thermostats then allow you to control the underfloor heating system.
What kind of thermostats are compatible?
Now that you know what underfloor radiant heating is, you might wonder what kind of thermostats are compatible with these systems. A floor heating system is an entirely separate entity from your already existing HVAC system. Therefore, the thermostats you use for those systems might not manage your flooring-based heating well.
Thankfully, there are a least a few devices out there that can handle both jobs effectively. The Nest thermostat is just one product capable of managing HVAC and underfloor heating systems. Many other manufacturers make thermostats that specifically focus on just floor-based radiant heating.
Here are the two kinds of radiant heat thermostats
As mentioned, there are two different kinds of radiant heat underfloor heating systems. They include electric and hydronic. Well, this is important to keep in mind.
Because the thermostats they make for a water hydronic heating system are not necessarily compatible with electric floor heating systems. Nor does it work the other way around. While some can regulate the two, expect to see devices that primarily focus on one.
Below, we list a few of the best thermostats for hydronic floor heating and thermostats for electric floor heating.
1. Thermostats for hydronic floor heating
Hydronic floor heating systems can come as buried systems or surface-mounted systems. The difference is that, while the former uses 1.6 cm pipes buried beneath floors, the latter uses 1.2 cm pipes laid atop the floor.
Regardless of which one you have, hydronic thermostats can regulate both kinds. The following are thermostats that are effective for this kind of heating system.
Nest Thermostat (2020)
Right out of the gate, a strong and familiar choice for a smart hydronic heating system thermostat is the Nest Smart Thermostat (2020). In fact, if you already have one of these handy gadgets in your home or office, you’ll be able to start using it for hydronic radiant heating from the jump.
This model has what it calls true radiant capabilities that are made just for underfloor heating systems. Nest has also been around for quite some time, so you can’t go wrong placing your trust in its products. Best of all, you won’t have to get an additional thermostat since it can do it all on its own.
You can get the Nest Thermostat (2020) from the official website here for $129.99.
The Aube by Honeywell Hydronic Heating 7-Day Programmable Thermostat is a fantastic option for a multifunctional thermostat. It’s programmable, and it works with underfloor hydronic, boiler, line-voltage, radiant, and even millivolt gas fireplace heating systems.
Not only is it compatible with a wide range of heating systems, but it is also capable of handling low voltage or as high as 240 volts. It also features pump protection and 60-day low battery warnings.
You can get the Aube by Honeywell here for $79.52.
Here is another thermostat from Honeywell: Aube by Honeywell Non-Programmable Hydronic Heating Thermostat. As you might expect from its name, this alternative to the previous model above is not programmable. It is, however, more affordable.
The TH135-01-B/U version comes with all the essential functionality you might need, minus the ability to program it. If you don’t require that feature and you are looking to save a little money, it just might be the option you need. Not only that, but it also has a remote telephone input feature for changing temperature.
You can get the Aube by Honeywell TH135-01-B/U Hydronic Heating Thermostat from Amazon here for $37.99.
2. Thermostats for electric floor heating
While hydronic floor heating systems use pipes and water to heat flooring, electric floor heating systems use electricity. Generally, they run on line voltage between 110 and 240 volts.
If you’re looking for a thermostat that can manage your electric floor heating system, then a line voltage thermostat is what you’ll want—particularly one that is compatible with underfloor heating systems. The following are options that should fit the bill of what you’re looking for.
NuHeat Radiant Floor Thermostat (Dual Voltage)
What’s a great thermostat for your electric floor heating system? Right away, the NuHeat Radiant Floor Thermostat (Dual Voltage) is a great place to start shopping. It features 2-day programming with energy use monitoring. There is a 3.5-inch color touchscreen display and 3 different kinds of temperature sensors.
The NuHeat Radiant Floor Thermostat can also handle tile and stone-based flooring as well as wood and laminate. Ground-fault detection and cutoff are built-in too. 120 volts and 240 volts are supported as well. There’s even an auto and manual mode included.
It’s also worth noting that there is a Wi-Fi-capable device as well which offers the same benefits as the regular model shown here. However, the Wi-Fi version brings some particularly handy abilities to the table. These abilities include support for Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and even IFTTT protocols.
It also works in conjunction with Nest thermostats so that it can make the most of the tech those thermostats offer. That’s a pretty useful feature that might be worth looking into if you want to maximize your advantages.
Get the NuHeat Radiant Floor Thermostat (Dual Voltage) from Amazon here for $180.
SunTouch Command Heated Floor Thermostat
The SunTouch Command Heated Floor Thermostat is a great choice if you’re looking for a thermostat that can be programmed. It has a 3.5-inch touch screen, a bright display, and energy use monitoring.
It’s also compatible with electric underfloor heating systems up to a current rating of 15A. It has GFCI protection and voltage support ranging between 120 volts and 240 volts.
The SunTouch Command Heated Floor Thermostat also includes floor and air sensing modes, along with a 15-feet 10K sensor wire. You can even connect as many as 3 different underfloor heating electric mats to the SunTouch thermostat.
You can get the SunTouch Command Heated Floor Thermostat from Amazon here for $175.50.
Honeywell TH115-AF-GA/U Floor Heating Thermostat
The Honeywell TH115-AF-GA/U Floor Heating Thermostat is a programmable option that offers a floor sensor and the ability to keep floors at a consistently set temperature. It’s good for only electric systems, but it can ensure that the load type of your floor system is resistive.
The Honeywell thermostat has a maximum current of 15A, which means 120-volts to 240-volts. The max wattage is set at 1800 W (120 volts) and 3600 W (240 volts). You may need to make sure your floor heating system does not exceed the maximum limitations of the thermostat.
You can get the Honeywell TH115-AF-GA/U Floor Heating Thermostat from Amazon here for $114.95.
One last thermostat that works well with radiant heating systems is the ecobee SmartThermostat. Not unlike Google’s Nest Thermostat (2020), ecobee’s brings voice assistance and a slew of great features along with it.
It has a clean, intuitive display and automatic temperature sensing. It even has hands-free call support using the incorporated Alexa and Google Assistant functionality. While that might not be something we typically care about in a thermostat, it certainly can’t hurt to have options. If you want a high-tech thermostat that can manage both kinds of radiant heating systems, this just might be what you are looking for.
You can get the ecobee SmartThermostat from the official website here for $249.99.
Why you need a radiant heating thermostat
If you have heated flooring and want to make the most of it, you’ll want to get a thermostat that is specifically designed to support that. After all, if you invested a lot of money into a radiant heating system, you want to experience it the way it was intended to be.
You’ll also want to get every inch of benefit you can possibly get from it. It only makes sense to use the right kind of product that is designed and compatible with this system.
If you are shopping for a radiant heating system, it will be worth your time to also check into the many different thermostats available that support it. While some can be more expensive to purchase, others are not expensive at all.
Either way, you should definitely look into these effective little gadgets because they will make all the difference in how you enjoy your radiant systems. So should you get a thermostat specially made for heated floors? Absolutely.
Why you should consider a radiant heating system
If you haven’t yet purchased a radiant heating system, but you’re considering one, we don’t blame you! Radiant floor heating systems maintain comfortable temperatures when the cold winter months come rolling in.
No one likes cold feet when they wake up at 2 a.m. and need to check on something downstairs, nor do they appreciate waiting during those early morning hours when the house has to catch back up. With regular HVAC heating, it takes time to reheat the air. Even then, it may not warm icy floors.
Radiant heating systems are also helpful if you have a drafty house or concrete beneath your flooring. Drafts that move along at floor level make it difficult for HVAC systems because the drafts continually push cool air along them. Concrete typically stays colder, and that can make a colder floor stay cold.
Not everyone can afford a luxury like heated flooring. However, as years go by, they often become less expensive since the technology and installation get cheaper and more practical. If you don’t have radiant heated flooring, it’s worth checking to see if it fits in your budget. It might be more affordable than you think. And it offers benefits you’ll feel through a large portion of the year if you live in a cooler region.
We hope we gave you all the information you need to select the right thermostat for your radiant heating system—or perhaps inspired you to check one out!
Do you already have a radiant heating system or thermostat? Let us know what you think!
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