Re-purposing items like radiant heated floor systems to create better gardens and for other prepping needs

I woke up this morning with radiant heated floors on my mind.

I wondered if it could be possible to use this kind of heated floor system in the base of a raised bed garden to warm the soil for germination, and later turn if off so that the germinated seeds can develop properly at a cooler temperature.

Water doesn’t bother heater floor systems. They last 100 years according to the info I read this morning and they use about 300 watts which are less than the average space heater.

The vegetable roots shouldn’t be an issue for the network of pipes that form the framework of the heated floor.

I thought it might be a way to cope with fluctuations in temperatures that seem to be more common. In a crisis, more reliable germination could also save seed from being wasted.

From that idea, I began to consider dual use items or re-purposing items for prepping.

My husband knew a person who used a hot water tank and and the heated water to heat his house. He just kept it circulating throughout the house and this was before heated floors became popular.

Do you re-purpose items in prepping? For anyone who gardens, does the underfloor heating sound viable?


  • Comments (14)

    • 9

      I don’t know very much about gardening, but I know that plants like warm soil. Placing some heated pipes under some planters in a green house would probably help them thrive.

      That would be an interesting science experiment for some kid’s 6th grade science fair.

      • 3


        It would work well in a green house. I like your suggestion to try it for a child’s science fair project. 

        I was thinking of putting them under my outdoor raised beds to warm the soil during germination. I can always cover the beds with plastic if needed.

        There is such a challenge with the climate here (zone 3) when seeding outdoors. A green house is on my wish list, but until I can get one I thought this might work.

        I am going to build in some lighted areas/cabinets above my basement stairs for seed starting, but it won’t be enough room for everything I need to start.

        I’m going to check into the radiant heat systems and see if I can put together a small one for one of my 4′ x 16′ planters for next year.

    • 4

      I could picture row hoops using drip irrigation tubing to run warm water on top of the ground.  I’d probably run pvc pipe underground to feed to those beds… if I were so inclined.  That tubing is rather cheap & easy to deal with & very easy to modify.

      I think maybe you are overthinking survival gardening.  I know for a fact the native Americans in your area were self sufficient.  I believe in KISS… keep it simple stupid.  So I would not try to reinvent the wheel but would spend all my time & effort emulating what they did.  Get that book about Buffalo Bird first.

      Just my 2 cents.

      • 3

        My idea is to develop my prepping in relation to whatever changes in climate or weather we seem to be experiencing. This area has a very tricky climate.

        I also have to deal with the reality of limited space in which to start seeds. The cabinet I want to get installed for next season won’t be large enough. This is why I am looking for a creative solution to one aspect (and challenge) of gardening here which is seed starting and a shorter growing season.

        By developing different coping stratgies for the weather changes, I hope to be better prepared.

        Your idea of running row hoops and re-circulating warm water could work very well. I like the cost effectiveness of it as well.

        I do believe that Buffalo Bird’s book is part of the solution I am trying to build. I guess you could say I don’t want all my prepping eggs in one basket. The more options and tried and tested methods I can learn, the better my chances are of surviving. And speaking of surviving…

        Sadly, the Indigenous people here did starve. My great-grandmother fed a Sioux war party that needed food. She gave them half a hog.

        My grandfather was born in 1875 and he and other family members who were alive in that time witnessed their suffering.

        This is a quote from that article about how the tribes here starved beyond the usual unpredictability of a hunter/fisher/gatherer society. They didn’t have the skill sets here that Buffalo Bird had in North Dakota and they weren’t treated well by our government.

        “During the 1870s, the Canadian government pressured the Indians to sign treaties (known as the “numbered treaties”) which turned over rights to almost the entire western plains to the Government of Canada. In return for signing over their lands, the Canadian government promised food, education, medical help, and other kinds of support.But the government failed to honour its treaty promises to the Indians.

        The Indians were confined to reserves, a concept that they did not understand. In fact, they did not understand or recognize the concept of individual land ownership.

        The Métis sought clear title to the lands they had been occupying and farming along the Saskatchewan River. But the Canadian government ignored the Métis during the treaty process. In 1880, Lt. Governor Alexander Morris recommended that their claims be recognized, and that Métis still depending on the buffalo hunt and old ways, have land assigned to them, since the buffalo were fast disappearing. But the Ottawa government ignored Métis concerns.

        By the early 1880s, the buffalo, which were the main source of food for the Indians and Métis, had disappeared almost entirely because of over-hunting and encroachment on their habitat.

        The western tribes, denied by treaty and loss of the buffalo, from being able to look after themselves in the traditional way, now were forced to sit and face slow starvation as winter approached.

        Desperate pleas for help from Indian and Métis representatives were ignored by Ottawa.

        The Plains Cree were starving, and smallpox was rampant in the west. They needed food & medicine. First Nations people confined to their reserves were even worse off than when they signed the treaties to try to preserve their future. Big Bear and his followers were the last holdouts, but they were finally forced to sign a treaty.”


      • 5

        Well, they didn’t starve because their system of self reliance was flawed… they starved because white settlers came in, killed off their main food source and disrupted their way of doing things.

        IMO, the best way to deal with climate changes is not to change a system that has worked but maybe to change varieties within that system.  Take the 3 sisters for example.  Many native American tribes had a similar system, no matter where they lived… from your far north, to the dry plains to the hot, humid south.  The basic system didn’t change but what changed were the varieties used.  Varieties best suited for their particular climate.  My point is, maybe test out different varieties that can better handle the direction your climate is headed.

        You might like this article.  It explains how amaranth was a valuable crop for the native Americans of South Dakota.  It could thrive when hot & dry, when beans & other crops failed.


      • 2

        That is true, they starved because colonization destroyed their way of life. During the drafting of the treaties, one Chief asked for medical care for his people and having seen the settlers ways of growing food, asked for tools and other things they had so his people could have a better quality of life. Other Chiefs were selfish and asked for gifts for themselves. Some tribes didn’t fare well because of Chiefs who did that.

        I really like the article on amaranth and I do plan to grow it (or store seed for it depending on room for growing)

        I want to put together as many options as possible. I never just draft plan A, B or C. My contingencies span a good chunk of the alphabet for prepping and non-prepping issues. There are too many variables.

        Thank you for the great link. I have bookmarked it because it looks like they have other great info/articles. I want to make that stew! It looks delicious.

      • 5

        I actually ordered the book mentioned in the article.  Can’t begin to tell you how much info I’ve picked up on survival gardening from what the native Americans have done.  My other source of similar info comes from rural southerners living on farms & surviving the Great Depression.  This book is just full of survival info.  The goats, illustrated on the cover, played a big part in their survival.  Just fascinated me, as you learn not only what they did… but why.

      • 4

        It’s time for a book order. I’m getting Buffalo Bird Womans book and “Collard Greens – Growing up on a sandhill subsistence farm in Louisiana during the Great Depression”

        I have both bookmarked from before and prepping reading is as important as another bag of rice.

        History is the key to how to navigate these times. The previous footsteps may be faint, but those before us forged important trails for us to follow in tough times.

        Thank you for the reminder on the books. 

      • 4

        History is the key to how to navigate these times. The previous footsteps may be faint, but those before us forged important trails for us to follow in tough times.

        My feelings exactly.  You are just MUCH better with words.  🙂

      • 3

        Thank you. You are MUCH better at gardening and people here are grateful you take the time to share your knowledge with us 🙂

    • 6

      I have used a string of Christmas lights on a plywood base in a recurring s configuration. They were covered in a plastic tube so safe around water.

      My friend uses a rocket stove mass heater in his greenhouse. He feeds it with twigs over the winter nights.

      • 3

        Thank you LBV. I can definitely use the lights and base idea indoors.

        A greenhouse is on my wish list. 

      • 4

        I used cable ties to attach in place.

      • 3

        LBV – Cable ties are so useful. I keep a bunch in different lengths. They would work really well for that project.

        Thank you.