Heated bathroom floors aren’t just for high end budgets. In fact, bathroom floors using radiant heat only add a few hundred dollars to the cost of a bathroom remodel. While some people consider them a luxury, many homeowners are adding them as a creature comfort that may be well worth the extra investment.
There are a couple kinds of radiant floor heating: electric and hydronic. The electric systems are meant to be a supplement to existing heat sources, such as central heat and air. Hydronic systems are much more complicated and can actually be used to heat an entire house. As far as power usage, electric systems aren’t practical for whole house use, but work fine for a small space such as a bathroom. Electric systems usually cost $5-7 per square foot, so they are very affordable.
If you’re just looking for supplemental heat to your bathroom, then the electric system is the way to go. Hydronic systems are very efficient, but are complicated to install and only worth doing for an entire house. If you go all out for a hydronic system in your entire house, it actually costs no more than $12 per square foot with professional installation. But that requires an investment of many thousands of dollars. As for electric radiant floor heating systems, they function much like electric blankets. They have their own thermostat, as well, so you can just use it whenever you need it. Electric heated floor systems are also very safe. They run on their own protected circuit. Also, all heating systems on the market have built-in protections against overheating.
One drawback that long existed for heated bathroom floors is the impact on utility bills. Indeed, the electricity costs can add up if left on unattended. However, newer models are much more energy-efficient. Also, especially in colder climates, it may be worth the comfort to have them. Say you really only need to heat the bathroom in the morning before leaving for work. By heating just the bathroom, you don’t have to run the whole house heating system just to heat up the bathroom. While some homes have heating controls for different areas of the house, this isn’t true in all cases. You could save hundreds of dollars a year in utility costs just by heating up the room you need most. In effect, you’ll actually get a complete return on investment in a couple of years if used in this way.
Since you have to tear out the existing floor to install the heating system, it’s probably best to save the install for when you are doing over the bathroom already. Any maintenance issues later on could also require you to tear up the floor. Also, some electrical upgrades may need to be made in order to install the system. But overall, if you find your bathroom is too cold when you need it, the potential savings from whole house heating costs and/or just your personal comfort is probably well-worth the investment.