Step Warmfloor: Radiant heating minus the hassle
By Reginald Tucker When custom homebuilder, George Royce, was looking for a radiant floor heating system for his eco-friendly ranch-style home in Wellington, Nev., he looked high and low for a product that was energy efficient, easy to install, durable and of course reliable. He found a product with all these attributes and more when he came across Step Warmfloor, an innovative radiant heating system with self-regulating properties.
“When I discovered the Step Warmfloor system, it was an eye opener,” Royce said FCNews. “I looked at a few different types of underfloor heating systems – water pipe, electrical cable, etc., but none matched the performance of Step Warmfloor, which is based on polymer radiant heating technology.”
Electrical cable systems, Royce said, typically require two and a half times more energy and wattage than Step Warmfloor, while most hydronic heating systems, he found, are twice as expensive to install and operate. “Step Warmfloor is 50% easier to apply and basically maintenance-free – you just lay down the rollers, lay down the floors and do your job,” he explains.
How Step Warmfloor works: The system uses a self-regulating heating element embedded in the rollers. The positive temperature coefficient (PTC) nanotechnology used in the system allows the elements to use maximum power to heat up in cold conditions, but reduce electricity consumption as the environment heats up. The heating system operates on a 24 volt AC/DC platform and heats the ambient air in a room from the ground. This allows the homeowner to maintain a comfortable environment, resulting in a system that is not only energy efficient but also does not overheat. Another advantage is that the system, which is controlled by a thermostat, can be directly connected to renewable energy sources such as solar energy.
Step Warmfloor is designed for use under most “non-conductive” floor surfaces: ceramic, porcelain tile, natural stone, hardwood, laminate and even carpet. The Step Warmfloor system was used in Europe for decades before being introduced in the US in the late 1990s and has delivered tangible benefits for both end users and installers.
“Usually with radiant heat, you have water in the pipes or electrical cables,” explains Monica Irgens, president and owner of Electro Plastics of Maryland Heights, Mo., maker of the Step Warmfloor system. (Her husband, Stefan, invented the product in Norway in 1981.) “Our system, which is made of semi-conductive plastic, is a very thin mat – about 3/64 in. The element used in the product itself is about 12” wide, so you can place it all over the floor. And because the mat is so thin, you can put it under any type of floor – it doesn’t raise the floor that much. That’s very important, especially when you’re working are growing.”
But it is the product’s self-regulating ability that is one of its main standout features, according to the company. That’s largely due to the product’s carbon content, which imparts certain “smart” properties as it heats up. As Irgens explained: “For example, if I’m sitting on the floor in a certain area, or if the sun is particularly strong in a certain part of the room, the system will react and generate less heat. But if I open the door to another room and cool air enters the room, it gets warm. This feature is especially useful when the homeowner is placing rugs or heavy furniture; with this system you have no problem with overheating.”
These design features make the Step Warmfloor system more energy efficient (and a lot less cumbersome) than some traditional underfloor heating systems, according to Irgens. “With water hose heating systems, it’s much more complicated and the homeowner needs a lot of materials like hoses, a water heater, etc,” she explained. “Compared to systems that use electrical cables, our system is much easier to install and more efficient. You only use the energy you need at that moment to maintain a certain temperature in the room.”
Spread the word
Clients such as Jim Betty, who manages a 19-apartment complex in Missoula, Mont., testified to the system’s efficiency. In 2017 he completed a refurbishment of every unit on the property – all of which are now heated with the Step Warmfloor system. “We have had very satisfactory tenants with regard to heating comfort,” said Betty, adding that each apartment in the complex has its own meters and tenants pay their individual heating bill along with their rent. “Everyone is happy with the low energy bill.”
Royce, the Nevada custom builder, is also a believer. After many successful projects using Step Warmfloor, he even became an authorized distributor. In this capacity, he has trained many professionals, including electricians and contractors, on the benefits of the system. What seals the deal for many users is the significant savings that Step Warmfloor offers.
For example, Royce referred to a 208-square-foot Step Warmfloor installation estimated to be worth about $3,000 — a fraction of what an electrical cable system would be, Royce explained. Running 24/7 for an entire season (or several months), the Step Warmfloor system costs less than a dollar a day to run.
“Eight hours of operation for the same installation with an electrical cable system would be about $1.55 per day or $46.50 per month for a total of $565.75 per year,” he said. “With Step Warmfloor, the cost would be $23 per month or $138 per season. Do the math, we can prove it works all day.”
Another Royce project – a renovation at a well-known spa in Reno – also produced positive results. But it took a leap of faith on behalf of the customer. The project, which involved the installation of the spa room floors and heated and contoured benches, was initially met with some skepticism by the project manager. As Royce recalled, “The customer’s initial attitude was, ‘I hope it works!’ But when I got the system up and running, he couldn’t believe it. I said to him, “Go ahead, pick a seat on the couch and put your ass down.” He said it was the softest, gentlest heat he’s ever felt.”