Radiant heat under ceramic and stone tiles has been in use for thousands of years. Architectural remains in Europe and the U.K. show how this was done: Roman builders constructed below-grade fire pits and extensive flue systems that carried heat to floors and bathing facilities. Even when compared with other ancient Roman excesses, these systems were models of inefficiency and gross consumption. Imagine a labor force of hundreds stripping forests, sawing and stacking cordwood, and stoking the fires just to keep one senator's tush from getting chilled!

Today, radiant tile warming systems, when properly specified and installed, consume a relatively small amount of energy in exchange for the comfort they can provide. The electrical-resistance mat shown in this article, the SunTouch from Watts Radiant (888/432-8932; www.suntouch.net), has been tested to ASTM standard C627 by the Tile Council of...

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