Herb Lagois says it’s the number-one source of comfort

When the snow flies and the winds blow, any Canadian knows a nice warm home, without chilly drafts or frosty floors, is the best place on earth.

And the best way to feel warm, no matter how cold the winter, says Herb Lagois, is to use heat that radiates.

Herb Lagois, of Lagois Drafting and Construction, specializes in architectural design, construction, and mechanical applications such as radiant heating.

In a nutshell, hydronic radiant heating uses water, warmed by gas, propane, oil, electricity, wood, or geo-thermally, in a “closed-loop system” of tubes in the floor, and the heat then radiates outward. When the water begins to cool, it returns to the heat source to be reheated, and it’s sent out again.  It can be used for a room or a whole building. Each room or entire area can have its own controlled temperature.

When you heat with a forced-air furnace, the air rises towards the ceiling and leaves the floors cool or even cold. It can be especially uncomfortable for children and infants who tend to spend a lot of time playing there. With radiant heating, the heat is everywhere, filling the entire space of a room, from your toes upwards.

Herb calls radiant heat “the number-one source of heating comfort”, because the heat is distributed equally, from the ground up. Better still, it means you can keep the thermostat at a lower temperature and still feel cozy.

Radiant heat is energy-efficient. It takes less energy to heat water (and to maintain the heat) than air, and because the source of heat – water – goes through tubes, there is no waste.

There is also little chance of airborne contaminants, because there’s little air movement, so it’s a clean and healthy way to heat your home.

Herb says it’s excellent for basements because they tend to be cool and damp; but you can have it installed on any floor.

If you’re building a home or new addition, and you don’t want to use radiant heating just yet, he says you can “rough it in” and hook it up later.

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Radiant heating is typically and most efficiently used in floors; but walls, ceilings, baseboards, and driveways can be heated, too.

Sometimes the radiant heat comes from baseboards, and although in-floor heating is best, radiant baseboard heating is often a perfect option in the renovation of existing or older buildings.

There are practically no drawbacks to using radiant heating, says Herb. The non-toxic PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene Tubing, commonly used in plumbing) tubes that carry the water are so strong and so carefully tested, he says, that they have a 200-year life-expectancy.

“I have seen the stress-testing [of the tubes],” he says. “It’s fascinating. The tubes are stronger than copper or any galvanized material, and they don’t corrode over time.”

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According to CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing), it costs about $600 to $800 per 100 square feet to install a hydronic radiant floor system. However, warns the agency, this is not a job you should do yourself. In order to get best performance and longevity, have the professionals do it.

Once it’s installed, radiant heating is cost effective – some say it can be as little as half the cost of forced-air. It takes minimal maintenance and no venting; there are no fluctuations in temperature; it’s 100 per cent efficient.

Not only that, but it keeps your feet warm. You might say it’s the nicest part of winter.