If you are a DIYer interested in radiant heating, you probably have a heating issue you need to fix. Many of us use a furnace or heat pump as our primary source of heat in our homes, but sometimes it just isn’t enough.
Cold spots are common, especially in rooms with tile or other hard floors. In some cases, adding a radiant heating system is the solution. One of the more complex elements of a radiant heat project is the connection to the thermostat.
Since the thermostat is the part we interact with, today we will discuss how and where to install a radiant heating thermostat as it is used in modern construction.
What Tools Do I Need to Install a Radiant Heat Thermostat?
Installing a radiant heat thermostat is not particularly complicated, but the project does require experience working with electricity. Therefore, it is not advised for a do-it-yourselfer to attempt to install a thermostat without a thorough understanding of the process. Safety is the single most important part of the project, so following protocol is critical to avoiding injury and damage.
As with any home improvement project, consult an expert if in doubt.
Thermostats are essentially electronic switches that tell a system to turn off or on, just like in a home or car. The electricity from the electrical circuit usually flows through the thermostat, so that when the thermostat shuts off, the attached device stops working.
If you’re looking for the best radiant heat thermostat, check out this article.
The thermostat is usually required to be located near the area being heated and must be powered by a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet, also known as a GFCI. Both electric and hydronic systems will install the thermostat in a similar manner, but it is critical to understand and follow the directions that come with the thermostat.
Thermostat designs vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most will connect in a similar manner. Here is a brief list of useful tools used to install a radiant thermostat, but others are available as well:
- Phillips and Flat Head Screwdriver
- Needle Nosed Pliers
- Cordless Drill and Bits
- Wire Strippers
Can I Install a Radiant Heat Thermostat Myself?
Connecting and installing a thermostat is not complicated, but a single mistake can cause injury. Therefore, DIYers interested in installing their own thermostat should have the experience, knowledge, and tools to perform the job safely. This experience should include working with circuit breakers, GFCI outlets, wire connections and tools.
Steps to Install a Radiant Heat Thermostat
Step 1: Run the Wires
The first step in installing a radiant heat thermostat is to decide where the thermostat will go. As already mentioned, local codes often require the thermostat be mounted very near the system. Most electrical codes will require the thermostat to be located no further than a few feet away from the system so that it can be disconnected quickly if a problem occurs.
It is important to make sure the distance from the thermostat location to the connection wires of the system does not exceed the specifications of the thermostat. Since each manufacturer may have different requirements, they must be followed closely.
In most cases, for appearance’s sake the wires are often fished up into a wall cavity and terminated at the desired thermostat location. In most thermostats, there will be two black wires and two red wires; although this will vary depending on the functions of the thermostat.
Step 2: Connect the Wires To the System
The second step is to connect the wires to the system without causing issues with the floor that will eventually sit atop the project. This usually just involves making sure the connection to the system is solid, but does not create a bump in the floor. Sometimes this will require ingenuity, but patience will pay big dividends.
In most applications, there will be one red and one black wire coming from the system itself. On the thermostat, there are usually two red wires and two black wires. These will often be marked with a red and black wire going to the GFCI, sometimes called the line side.
The other red and black wires, often called the load side, are then connected to the system. In most applications, the red load side wire on the thermostat is connected to the red wire from the system. Next, the black load side wire on the thermostat is connected to the black wire on the system.
Once you’ve made and inspected these connections, you can make the final connections to power. This is generally done by connecting the black line side wire on the thermostat to the ground side of the GFCI, and connecting the red line side wire to the hot side of the outlet. This should not be assumed however, as some homes use three conductor cables, which have black, white, and red wires.
In these situations, the black wire can be a hot wire or a ground, so connecting it to the white wire would trip the GFCI. Again, a thorough knowledge and following the directions is critical to preventing injury or damage.
Step 3: Mounting the Thermostat
After you have made the connections, the last step is to mount the thermostat to the wall. This is usually done by transferring the mounting hole locations on the back of the thermostat to the wall. Using anchors is typical, but the thermostat can be mounted directly to a wall stud if that is the desired location.
In most situations, pilot holes are drilled into the wall using a cordless drill, into which lightweight anchors are installed. The mounting screws supplied with the thermostat are then driven into the anchors.
You can accomplish installing a radiant heat thermostat with just a few tools and know-how. Even installing the entire system is within the range of an experienced do-it-yourselfer.
The key to success is often just doing a little research and purchasing the appropriate system for the project. Attention to detail and patience will usually serve as the bedrock for a successful radiant heat thermostat installation.
Nick Lopresti is the founder of YourH2Home and a home improvement expert. He has years of experience writing about various home improvement topics, mostly as it pertains to water systems.