Add these versatile, easy-to-install radiant floor panels to your next radiant job.

Legend Hydronics VersaTherm. Photo credit: Legend Hydronics

In today’s economic climate, reducing costs is critical to maintaining profitability. One way to achieve those savings is to reduce jobsite labor costs. The introduction of easy-to-install radiant panel systems has cut the time it takes to install radiant floor heating on almost any project. The less time spent on installation means reduced labor costs - and a happier customer.

These systems give heating professionals more options when designing and installing radiant floor heating systems, thus expanding radiant heat to more applications.

Uponor Fast Trak. Photo credit: Uponor

Channeled modular board

Radiant heating installers were first introduced to “dry” systems consisting of prechanneled modular board and metal plates for heat transfer. PEX tubing is then snapped into the grooves. They are lightweight, low in profile and provide a quick heat response time.

“These systems can offer advantages with low floor height and the ability to easily fasten hardwood flooring over them,” saysMark Hudoba, senior product manager of radiant heating and cooling at Uponor.

Embedding tubing in cement or gypsum may not work in some applications due to added weight, scheduling complications or moisture introduced into a home during curing. “Using a dry radiant system makes the process go a bit smoother,” notesBob Grubbsof Grubbs Mechanical, Bristol, Wis.

“In a retrofit situation, dry radiant has the advantage,” explainsBill Werthman, contractor trainer at Legend Hydronics. A contractor may not be able to get under the floor to install tubing or add framing adaptations required to support the weight of the concrete.

For contractors, these systems mean more money in their pockets.

“Our profit goes completely to us and we don’t have to use any other subcontractors,” saysDan Whitlockof Whitlock Plumbing & Heating, Princeton, Ill. “It gives us total control over the entire job. It also cuts down on errors because you can see exactly where the tubing is going.”

Nuheat Cable System. Photo credit: Nuheat

Products available are:

  • Climate Panel, Viega. Two pieces of 1/2-inch plywood are “perforated” with an aluminum back and filler strips with curved grooves. The panels are 7 inches or 10 inches wide and 4 feet long, and have a profile of 1/2 inch. Lay the panels out on the subfloor, secure with staples or screws and snap the PEX tubing into place. To install over an existing slab, adhere a plywood layer to the slab and install the Climate Panels on top.

  • Dry-Above, HeatLink. A sleeper, a plate, pipe and support material that can be found at your local lumberyard are all you need for this system. Installation is easy because standard components are used, including the heat transfer plates. The EndBend component allows for transition on the loop ends.

  • Quik Trak, Uponor. This system includes 7-inch or 10-inch panels attached to aluminum heat transfer sheets in the bottom, Return Traks with grooves for the ends. Panels are screwed to subfloor, and the PEX tubing is easily snapped into the grooves. Even faster installation is achieved with the Quik Pak preassembled system, which covers more ground in one shot.

  • RAUPANEL, REHAU. Aluminum panels are the difference in this system, with wood return bends and plywood spacers. Each all-aluminum panel is 5/8-inch thick, 6 inches wide and 6 feet long, with grooves to fit 3/8-inch tubing. To install, just lay the panels on the floor so the stands are on the floor. The return bends have a specialized locking mechanism and guide, so the plates just snap into the end pieces. Pipe is snapped into the grooves.

  • SubRay, Watts Radiant. This system comes equipped with 6-inch-wide plywood sleepers, radiant tape applied to the bottom of each radiant channel, header sticks, corner sweeps, grippers, C-covers and aluminum conduction rolls installed over sleepers to conduct heat more evenly. It comes in two sizes: the 13-mm.-version uses 3/8-inch PEX tubing, and the 17-mm.-version uses either 3/8-inch Onix tubing or 1/2-inch PEX tubing.

    First the header sticks are installed, then the sleepers and corner sweeps. Next the tubing is placed in the wide channels, and the aluminum conduction roll is applied on top. SubRay uses wide channels instead of tight grooves, permitting easy movement of the tube with no noise.

  • ThermalBoard, RTI PEX Plumbing Systems. Medium density fiberboard with grooves for PEX tubing and a thin layer of aluminum glued to the top. Three different configurations fit together like a puzzle. Just assemble the panels, attach to the subfloor and snap in the 3/8-inch PEX tubing, creating a low profile of 5/8 inch.

  • VersaTherm, Legend Hydronics. Heat transfer plates, insulation and tubing channels are built-in, with a 3/4-inch profile. Uses 1/2-inch PEX tubing. Panels snap together and are placed over subfloor. Push or step in the tubing to secure in the channels. Finish with the metal tubing shields and retun panel covers.

  • Warmboard. A tongue-and-groove plywood structural subfloor panel with channels for tubing, and covered with aluminum. It is manufactured from sustainable and recycled resources, and is installed as a standard subfloor.

  • Viega Snap Panel. Photo credit: Viega

    Plastic grid

    For radiant professionals looking for an easier method to install PEX in a slab or lightweight overpour application, plastic grid systems allow for PEX tubing to be snapped into place around plastic knobs.

    “Because these systems are so flexible, tubing can be installed in any configuration, depending on the spacing for the project,” saysFred Fleming, a Viega product engineer.

    Tubing installation for remodel jobs can be reduced from days to hours, Hudoba says. Installers can easily make changes to loop layout if needed.

  • Creatherm. Floor panels are made of BASF Styropor and Neopor EPS. Panel size is 2 feet by 4 feet and features a staggered snap-tight grid for tubing placement. On-center points are every 3 inches. Panels are available in 1.8-inch, 2.8-inch and 3.3-inch thicknesses.

  • Fast Trak, Uponor. The product is made for 5/16-inch PEX tubing and features an adhesive backing for easy installation to a slab or subfloor. Two models are available: Fast Trak 0.5 and Fast Trak 1.3i. Fast Trak 0.5 is only 1/2-inch thick, eliminating the need to alter baseboards, moldings or doors. Fast Trak 1.3i is 1 1/4-inches thick. It holds 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch PEX tubing and includes insulation already in the mat.

  • Quick Therm, Viega. Panels are made of expanded polystyrene foam. They are about 2 feet by 4 feet and can be used with 1/2-inch, 5/8-inch or 3/4-inch radiant tubing. The knob grid pattern is designed to hold the radiant tubing at on-center spacing patterns in multiples of 3 inches.

  • Snap Panel, Viega. Interlocking panels allow for a sturdy working surface. It accepts 1/2-inch PEX tubing and accommodates spacing in multiples from 3-inch to 6-inch and greater. The system can be used with any type of insulation.

    Danfoss Reflect. Photo credit: Danfoss

    Easy electric

    In a retrofit or small addition application, electric radiant heating may be the best solution. Today there are methods to easily install electric cable for radiant floor heating.

    “Some tradespeople like these systems because they are similar to hydronic radiant,” says Kevin McElroy, Nuheat vice president of sales.

  • Cable System, Nuheat. Available in 120V and 240V, the system is only 3/16-inch thick. The Cable Guides are installed around the perimeter of the room; just snap cable in. Apply self-leveling compound and set before finished flooring can be installed.

  • FlexSnap, FlexTherm. This is a mesh system with grooves for inserting cable (spaced at 1-inch intervals). Tiles are 12 3/8-inches by 12 3/8-inches, with socket and spigot ends for easy assembly. Holes allow mesh to be anchored to subfloor.

  • Reflect, Danfoss. These insulation plates consist of a 1/2-inch thick polystyrene insulation covered with a thin aluminum layer. Plates are 19 3/4 inches by 39 1/2 inches and are locked together with a special locking tool.