Experts and economists are optimistic about the housing scenario in 2015, and they have reasons to be after the tough past few years. Along with the overall economic recovery and an improving job market, there are other positive signs to boost the market as well.

A key one is the relaxed credit and underwriting requirements by more mortgage lenders this year. Lower down payments combine with the looser credit standards to boost affordability, allowing more first-time buyers to enter the market.

As the end of 2014 saw, home prices have also cooled down to a steadier pace and, per Freddie Mac economists, they will rise only by 3 percent in 2015.

Mortgage rates are going to be low as well, and even if they do rise, experts have predicted that they will remain far lower than their historical averages. There is also going to a significant rise in housing inventory, easing the way for the market to see positive growth.

In such a scenario, both the new home and the home renovation markets are all set to flourish. One trend that is already making its presence felt is "underfloor heating" or "heated bathroom floor."

Is it a luxury? Of course. But judging by the way people are opting for it, it seems that this is one luxury that has become quite a priority for homeowners today. As a result, new constructions and more and more home renovation budgets are including heated floors for the bathrooms.

Innovative and wonderful as it sounds, the concept of heated floors is hardly new. This trend has been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Roman times. Our smart and wealthy ancestors devised these ways to keep their floors and homes warm from the cold outside.

It seems we have come a full circle as the method is once again a focal point for homes today. This is perhaps a good time to know more about this system, its pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision when you plan your home renovation this year.

Heated floors (top) allow for less wasted warmth than traditional heating systems (bottom).

Pros of a heated bathroom floor:

  • Uses a series of hot water tubes or wires under the floor to produce a discreet and smooth heat from within the thermal masses
  • Can retain heat for a long time, even after the power is turned off.
  • Heats up slowly, spreads evenly through the floor and other objects in a room thereby releasing more warmth.
  • Works well with linoleum, laminate or tile flooring, so is a great choice for bathrooms, which tend to be the coldest areas of most homes.
  • Waves of infrared radiation rising from the floor warm up the building mass and ensure that the heat isn't lost to surrounding surfaces as in conventional heating systems.
  • Though it takes time to heat up, the heat is retained for a longer time leading to overall heating cost reduction.
  • Without typical furnaces, ducts or loose vents, the RFH installations also cut down on noise.
  • They need less maintenance and can last for around 40 years before requiring replacement, unlike the usual 15-year warranty that accompanies traditional heating systems.
  • Whether you opt for hydronic systems or electric radiant floors, both systems are flexible and sustainable, making a home more energy efficient than most.

Cons of a heated bathroom floor:

  • It's still a new system so trained professionals are new, which makes a bit pricey at times.
  • Along with an experienced contractor, it comes with high upfront costs, which may pinch many a renovation budget even though the long-term gains are high.
  • It is quite difficult to install retroactively and improper installation can lead to excessive heat or cause structural damage.
  • The lack of ductwork is great for efficient heating but not so well for cooling, which makes it a problem when the days get hotter.
  • Uses electricity, which can be an expensive way to provide heat.
  • Needs considerable assembly for installation, from laying down wire mats to replacing the floor.
  • Can cause potential floor damage, either through a ruptured water tube or fire due to a faulty resistance wire, though these happen rarely.
  • Broken wires are trapped between flooring surfaces make it difficult to identify the exact source of problem, so it may be difficult and expensive to repair.

Despite their drawbacks, heated floors can be a great asset for any home. An experienced contractor can get these properly installed, and functioning will be easy. Enjoy the comfort and warmth of these floors while making the home greener, not to mention improving the resale value of the home big time.