Today’s modern technology gives us various ways to heat our homes, offices, or any indoor spaces – the days of relying solely on a central fireplace are long gone! 

We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of radiant heating and how it compares to traditional forced heating systems used for interior heating for decades. 

Radiant Heating: What Is It?

There are multiple methods of heat transfer, one of which is radiation. The radiation discussed here isn’t the type of harmful radiation you hear about either; instead, it’s simply a way to describe heat radiating onto an object off of another — like the sun radiates heat to the earth.

Heating concept. Underfloor heating with the collector in the room.

Radiant Heating Sources

Radiant heating works through small “sources” of heat placed within your home or any interior space that radiate heat out to their surroundings. 

Depending on where you install or retrofit the radiant heat source, there will also be an element of convection (moving air) that heats the room instead of purely radiating heat.

Typically, radiant heat sources go:

  • Underneath Floors
  • As Panels Inside Walls
  • Into Ceiling Panels

Essentially, if you think of the interior space you’re heating and imagine a 3-dimensional box, radiant heat sources can be placed anywhere along the box to heat its interior.

Traditional Forced Heating

Compared to radiant heating, forced heating or forced air uses another method of heat transfer called convection which means heat that travels “through moving air.” 

Forced heating is your traditional heating system. A central HVAC unit pushes warm air throughout the interior of the space, resulting in warm air displacing cold air and therefore heating the area.

The Advantages of Radiant Heating

Compared to traditional forced heating systems or even baseboard heating systems, radiant heating has many advantages.

Pro: Eliminates Duct Heat Loss

As air travels through traditional HVAC air ducts and heating systems, there is an element of heat loss through the duct walls.

Radiant heating eliminates this heat loss because it radiates the energy from the source directly to its surroundings.

Pro: Reduces Allergens in the Air

Have your HVAC ducts been cleaned recently? Allergy-sufferers can benefit significantly from radiant heating because no air is pushed around from the heating source. 

In traditional forced heating systems, warm air circulates throughout an interior space. It travels through various heating ducts that could be contaminated with allergens and pollutants if no filtration system is in place.

Since radiant heating doesn’t force any air movement, no allergens will be “stirred up” in the first place.

Pro: Hydronic (Liquid-Based) Radiant Heating Cuts Costs

Radiant heating systems can be electric or liquid-based, filled with various fluids that possess favorable thermal properties. If a liquid-based radiant heating system is used, you can significantly cut costs on electricity.

Cost savings from liquid-based heating is beneficial for “off the grid” homes in remote locations or areas with very high energy costs.

Pro: Interchangeable Energy Sources

For electric radiant heating systems, the energy source is self-explanatory — electricity. However, for liquid-based systems, you can choose any type of energy source you desire.

Common energy sources for radiant heating systems may include:

  • Solar Water Heaters
  • Wood-Fired Boilers
  • Oil-Fired Boilers
  • Standard Gas
  • A Combination of Multiple Energy Sources

The options are truly endless, with the only limit being your project constraints and creativity!

Pro: Extremely Quick Response Time

Radiant heating systems, particularly panel installations within interior walls, have some of the fastest response times compared to traditional heating systems.

You can control the radiative panels in each room individually, and the panels will quickly heat that room. This fast response time combined with stellar control capabilities allows more significant cost savings in the long run.

Pro: Less Effect on Humidity Levels

Central heating systems can lead to dry air in the winter. Already, humidity levels outside tend to be lower in the cold months, and then heated air can cause further dryness. Radiant heat, on the other hand, doesn’t have this same drying effect. 

Related article: Why Companies Are Choosing Underfloor Air Conditioning Systems. 

What Other Problems Can Radiant Heating Solve Around the Home?

The same technology has brought innovative solutions for other residential issues. For example, radiant heating systems can help homeowners:

  • Keep their driveway free of ice and snow.
  • De-ice the roof and gutters.
  • Warm the house more efficiently by supplying baseboard heating units.
  • Take the chill out of granite and marble countertops and create a warmer surface for dining.
  • Keep bathroom mirrors from getting steamed up.
  • Heating towels and robes in the bathroom.

The Disadvantages of Radiant Heating

Even though the advantages are plenty, there are also several disadvantages of radiant heating systems that you should consider. Depending on the type of space you’re heating and project constraints, you may have to consider various radiant heating energy sources or materials.

Con: Electric Radiant Heating is Expensive

We discussed both electric and liquid-based radiant heating systems, but it’s important to note that the former (electricity) can become expensive.

Since the primary energy source of electric-based radiant heating is the electricity itself, depending on the size of the spaces heated and the size of the installed radiative panels, energy costs can add up quickly.

Con: Work Best in Line-of-Sight

Unlike forced air and other traditional heating systems, radiant heating works best when you’re in the line of sight of the radiative source itself. When you’re right next to the heat source, that’s when you can feel the warmth the most.

Step away from the radiant heat source, and you’ll begin to feel “pockets” of cooler air unless there is some form of air circulation installed.

Get Warmed Up with AQM

To find out what type of heat is the best solution for your home, call AQM for a consultation.

AQM, Inc.