Learn about the types of radiant heating and an easy way to add radiant floor heat to any room with a rug heater.
I love radiant heat. I think it is the greatest heating invention ever. It produces a slow, constant heat in the floor that gradually fills the whole room. No hot air blowing in your face while your feet are freezing. No going from being too cold then too hot as the furnace cycles off and on. No ugly vents. Just a comfortable warmth that starts at your feet. I have wanted to put radiant heat in our home for years. The only drawback is cost.
About Radiant Heat: Gas vs. Electric
As I’ve spent years researching how to install radiant heat in our home in a way our budget could afford, here’s what I’ve learned:
There are two types of radiant heat: Natural gas-powered and electric-powered.
Natural gas-powered radiant heat uses water in small tubes laid out under the flooring that all connect to a central water heater. Warm water is then piped through the tubes, warming up the house. The cost of the tubing is cheap, but the water heater is expensive and installation costs a lot. It has to be installed underneath hard floorings, like tile or cement, so your flooring has to be replaced if you’re going to install it. And it costs about the same to add this type of radiant heat to one room as it does to the whole house, so it only makes sense if you are redoing the flooring and installing it throughout your whole house.
Natural gas-powered radiant heat wasn’t an option for us, partly because of installation costs, but mostly because we have mid-century oak floors through most of our home that I love and don’t want to replace. We only plan to put radiant heat into our family room where there is tile flooring and where we spend most of our time. Again, not the right choice for adding radiant heat to just one room.
Electric-powered radiant heating typically puts panels with wires under a hard flooring, like tile. The panels connect to your home’s electric system. The wires heat up as electricity flows through them, heating up the floor, and gradually heating up the room. Electric radiant heat makes more sense if you are only heating one room. It would cost a lot to install through an entire house since you pay for the individual panels and there is no central heating system. It would also use A LOT of electricity to heat an entire house.
We planned to install radiant heat panels on our family room floor, so this was the type of radiant heating I have been researching. I have been watching videos and reading reviews and learning how to install the panels and what electrical connections we would need. I was saving up to buy the panels and connectors plus new tile flooring for our room. So I was researching how to lay tile floors too. It was a little overwhelming.
And then I found Cozy Winters and a way to have radiant heat with no installation costs or work!
Radiant Heat for an Area Rug
Cozy Winters sells an electric radiant floor heater for under area rugs. It is essentially a radiant heat panel that is flexible and safe under carpeting and plugs into a wall outlet. So we didn’t have to tear out our old tile, we just laid the rug heater on top of a rug pad right on top of the tile. It’s even safe to use on top of carpeting. Next, we put our rug on top of the heater, plugged it in, and we had warm feet. Okay, actually I laid down on the rug because it was warm and I was cold. Instant full-body warmth—it was awesome.
The rug heater doesn’t need any complex electrical knowledge because the cord has an auto-reset Class A in-line CGFI with 5mA trip. Basically that means there is a something right before the plug that will stop electricity from flowing and keep you safe if there are any problems. It’s even waterproof so you can use it in a bathroom.
The under rug heater comes in several sizes. You can check out all the options for the rug heater here.
Between buying the electrical panels, paying for installation, and replacing the flooring, the cost to install a traditional electric powered radiant heat flooring system would have cost several times what we spent on the radiant floor heater for under area rugs. That includes the non-slip thermal pad for the rug heater that we bought from Cozy Winters too. I didn’t want any of the heat to be wasted on the floor beneath the rug heater. Plus it made the whole thing non-slip.
How to Lay Out the Rug Heater
The instructions on how to layout the rug heater were very simple. First, we put down the floor mat. One side should be up if you are putting it on tile or hard flooring, the other side should be up if you are putting it on carpeting. It’s slightly sticky, so it’s easy to get it to lie flat on the floor. Then the rug heater goes down. It kind of looks like aluminum foil with wires in between. It folds out flat and, since the rug pad is slightly sticky, it sticks a little to it. Then we taped down the rug heater with the tape included in the package. We rolled the area rug out on top of the rug heater. Our area rug is actually our shag carpet that I ripped out and cut down to be an area rug. That’s why the back doesn’t look like a normal area rug. I’ll post about that later. It’s been a whole process. Far more work than putting in our radiant heat.
Making the Heat Automatic
Maybe we are lazy, or maybe my husband just really likes smart technology, but we didn’t want to plug in our rug heater every time we wanted it to come on. So we bought a WEMO smart outlet from Amazon that is made for a 3-pronged plug. We plugged the smart outlet into the wall and then plugged the rug heater into the smart outlet. Now we can turn on the heater using our phones. Also, we use the smart outlet to set a schedule so it comes on and turns off at the same time every night. Except for weekends: it stays on a little later on the weekend. Now our rug is already warmed up when we come into the room for the evening.
Bonus, when we’re leaving on vacation, we unplug the rug heater and plug in a lamp. The Wemo turns the lamp on and off on the same schedule as we normally use the rug heater, so it makes it look like we are home for the evening.
You can also add a thermostat to the outlet where you plug in the rug heater that will turn the heater on and off according to the temperature in the room. Cozy Winters even sells a Programmable Outlet Thermostat.
But is it really radiant heat?
Yes, by definition, the rug heater “exchanges heat by both convection and radiation within its environment.” It is real radiant heat and it produces just as much heat as the gas-powered and traditionally electric-powered radiant heat that is installed under flooring.
If you want it to be the only heat source in your room, you will need to buy multiple rug heaters and cover at least 70% of your floor. We still have a central heating furnace that puts some warm air into our family room, so we only have one 5.5X8 foot rug heater. For now. Our central heating is really inefficient and ineffective so one day I plan to get more rug heaters and cover more of our family room floor.
About Cozy Winters
The Cozy Winters company started by making self-warming clothing for skiers. If you look at their website, a lot of the products they offer are battery-heated cold-weather clothing. I figure if their products are safe enough to wear next to your skin, they are safe enough for the floor of my home.
You should also know that there are other places that sell equivalent rug heaters to Cozy Winters, although you do not want to buy a cheap, poorly made rug heater (fire hazard!). In my research, I found Rug Buddies that sell pretty much exactly the same product for the same price. Every time I looked at their website though, they were out of stock and back-ordered.
My own experience dealing with Cozy Winters customer service was really good. I ordered our rug heater a few weeks before Christmas. I wanted our floor to “magically” be warm for Christmas morning. Unfortunately, this was right in the middle of Shipping-Armageddon 2020. When Fed-Ex lost my package with the rug heater (you know, “Your package will arrive on: Check back later”), I sent Cozy Winters an email. It may not have been very kind. Someone from customer service responded quickly with a phone call and then got FedEx to track down the package that was misplaced at a shipping warehouse. I got email updates throughout the whole process. They got it back on track and it arrived before Christmas. Our family room floor was warm for Christmas morning. So I have to say that Cozy Winters has amazing customer service.
All this happened before I ever thought of sharing about the rug heater on this blog. I have loved our rug heater so much that I contacted Cozy Winters and became an affiliate to share their products here. Now I am excited to try out more of their heating products and share them with you (like their heated mattress pads!)
With this project, we are finally starting to update and redesign our family room! We added curtains and a few pictures when we first moved in, but that’s about it. You can read how I sewed and hemmed the curtains and refinished the curtain hardware here. Plus a fun poster frame I made. This rug heater was our next big step in updating the room. And although you can’t even see the rug heater, the room definitely feels better. I hope to have more updates on our family room redesign soon!