Say “Goodbye” to extra blankets this winter and say “Hello” to Gold Heat mats
Comfort takes many forms. A well-worn chair. A familiar meal. The company of old friends. But on a more basic level, the thing that makes us all comfortable is warmth. Like water, it is an essential we can’t live without; we seek it from fire, from the sun, from our homes. As a long, cold winter closes in, our thoughts begin to wander to tropical climes — and as it comes to an end, we can’t wait to be free from heavy jackets, beanies, scarves and boots. The fact is, we know that the cold is a necessary part of nature, we just don’t want to be in it for too long.
In a motorhome, we have the freedom to go wherever we want, and to live in warm weather year-round. But for those of us who enjoy four-season camping or live in a motorhome full-time, warmth can be particularly important. Because, for as well-equipped as motorhomes can be with furnaces, heat pumps and even fireplaces, most of them don’t hold heat very well in truly cold weather, and heat distribution throughout the interior may be uneven. And, even when plugged in, most motorhomes still require the burning of propane to stay warm, which, apart from being expensive, can be inconvenient when a refill is necessary. So, if you have a motorhome that you otherwise love and would like to keep, is there a solution? Yes, and it’s a very good one: electric radiant floor heat.
Considered a luxury feature in custom homes and high-end coaches, electric radiant floor heat is prized for its ability to deliver consistent, even warmth without the need for a noisy furnace that constantly cycles on and off. Not to be confused with hydronic heating systems, which sometimes incorporate floor heat via hot-water tubes beneath the subfloor, electric radiant heat uses thin mats located directly underneath the tile, effectively turning the floor into one big radiator. Gold Heat of Hillsboro, Oregon, is the leading supplier of electric radiant floor systems to the RV industry, but what many owners may not know is that its popular product that shares its name with the company can be retrofitted to older coaches to provide supplemental heat and warm flooring.
Consisting of fiberglass mats with embedded stainless-steel wire, Gold Heat mats are designed to radiate 14 watts per square foot, so the largest single mat available, at 113 square feet, takes about 1,600 watts and delivers about as much interior heat as a similarly rated space heater or electric fireplace, according to the company. In a mild climate, that kind of output would be adequate to keep the interior warm on its own, but in really cold weather, the furnace would still be required. However, the addition of Gold Heat makes for even heat distribution and reduces the amount of time the furnace has to run.
Gold Heat is also highly customizable. As mentioned, the largest single mat available is 113 square feet, but can be divided into several mats of different sizes (for the bedroom and bath area, for example) controlled by one or more thermostats. For this reason, Gold Heat radiant flooring has become a very popular choice with RV manufacturers and remodeling shops alike. “There’s a reason this feature is so well-received,” said Ken Millard, owner and president of Gold Heat. “It transforms the relationship you have with your coach. It changes your posture, the way you sit, everything. You find yourself just relaxing more. Electric radiant heat is fundamentally more comforting and inviting.”
Installing Gold Heat radiant flooring requires that your motorhome’s existing floor be removed completely and replaced with ceramic tile. The mats are embedded in the thinset (also known as mortar), and the tile laid down like any ordinary tile job. Granted, tearing up your floor to have Gold Heat installed isn’t a quick or easy process, but if you are considering new flooring anyway, having the mats installed at the same time isn’t particularly difficult. It is, however, a job that should be performed by a professional, and Gold Heat can point you in the direction of a qualified installation center located in your area.
For those customers who would like electric radiant floor heat but would prefer a flooring material like vinyl tile or engineered wood, Gold Heat offers its Black Gold product. “Black Gold is a thin, essentially printed element that is designed to go under laminate surfaces rated for radiant heat,” Millard explained. “The Gold Heat [branded] product requires thinset to help spread the heat evenly, and also to create a flat surface. For materials that don’t require thinset, which is essentially any other flooring material, Black Gold installs very thin and flat.” It’s also a good option, Millard says, if your coach is near its weight limit, and you don’t want the extra pounds a tile floor can add. Functionally, the only difference to be aware of with the Black Gold product is that it is only available in strips, and cannot be made into irregular shapes like the Gold Heat mats can.
To see what is involved in a typical retrofit installation, we followed along as a Gold Heat mat was installed in a 40-foot Tiffin Phaeton Class A motorhome at Dave and LJ’s RV interior design, an authorized Gold Heat installation center in Woodland, Washington. The process took several days, as the interior furniture and original carpet/tile was removed first while the mat was being built at the Gold Heat facility. When completed, the new tile floor not only looked great, but provided the warm, even heat that the company promised. Gold Heat mat cost will vary, depending on the square footage of the mat. Materials for this installation, including 106 square feet of mat and a thermostat, totaled around $2,750. Installation is extra, and costs will vary depending upon the flooring material used and the layout of the rig. Power requirements vary on the size of the installation, but are basically 15 watts (.125 amps) per square foot. Installation of an AC sub panel may be required if there isn’t an open breaker slot in the existing breaker panel.
If new flooring is in your motorhome’s future, you owe it to yourself to consider having Gold Heat or Black Gold installed at the same time. It is a luxury feature you won’t see, but you’ll definitely feel.