Radiant Heating Types For The Economical Homeowner: Which Is Best For You?

29 August 2014
 Categories: Business, Articles


If you've been looking for a way to heat your home more efficiently, you may have heard about radiant heating, which is comparable to what you feel when standing in front of a fire or your oven. Because of its ability to efficiently heat your home, radiant heat has become an increasingly popular choice for homeowners as a way to save on utility bills. Here are the three different types of radiant heat and how they work so that you can choose the best one for your home and budget.


The three main types of radiant heat are radiant flooring, radiant ceilings, and radiant walls. The one you select will depend on what you're trying to accomplish (replace vs. supplement your heating system), the type of foundation you have, and your available budget. They are highly advantageous in that they are more energy efficient than standard forced air systems, and they are great for allergy sufferers: no forced air means no allergens blowing around your home.

Radiant Flooring

When installed correctly, radiant floor heat is an incredibly economical way to heat your home, saving you around 30% on your fuel bills over forced air. There are three ways to achieve this type of heat, and they include air-heated radiant floors, electric, and hydronic (liquid based). 

  1. Air-heated radiant floors are far less common than the others because they are not very cost-effective, even when the air is heated with solar energy; consider the fact that solar energy is used during the day when the sun is out, and you most need heat during the evening hours when the temperatures drop. Additionally, air just simply does not hold or conduct heat very well.
  2. Electric radiant floors use electric cables placed in the flooring to heat your home. Since they rely on electricity to warm your home, they are not as economically practical as the hydronic systems.
  3. The hydronic radiant flooring systems are the most cost-effective choice, as they take water that's already been heated from your home's water heater (boiler, standard, or tankless) and feed it through plastic tubing placed under your floors.

The biggest factor to consider when mulling over a radiant floor option is your existing floor covering--this could ultimately affect the heat output. The best is ceramic tile because it conducts heat better than any other type of floor. It's also extremely thermal. Thick carpeting and heavy rugs tend to insulate the floor, impeding the actual radiation of heat. Those who don't want to get rid of their carpet may choose a radiant floor solely for their uncarpeted bathrooms or go with radiant ceilings.

Radiant Ceilings

Many homeowners don't consider radiant ceilings for one main reason: they are under the misguided impression that since heat rises, they will experience the "hot head, cold feet" scenario. But the truth is, heat itself doesn't rise; hot air does. In fact, many experts will insist that radiant ceilings will heat all the way to the floor in much the same way that the sun heats sand on a beach, keeping your home warm from top to bottom.

Radiant ceilings are advantageous over radiant floors in that they are generally cheaper and easier to design and install, especially in an existing home. Consider that it's much easier to install something on your ceiling where there are no objects in the way, as opposed to having to move furniture, carpeting, and other things to install a radiant floor.

A radiant ceiling can be added as a supplement to your existing system, or it can be implemented as a sole source of heat in the winter. Most radiant ceilings use electric heating panels, but you can certainly use a hydronic system. Most homeowners go with electric because there is no danger of tubes breaking and water leaking. Some professionals recommended staying away from radiant ceilings in homes that have a concrete slab poured directly over the earth. Radiant floors are a better option in these situations.

Radiant Walls

Radiant wall heat uses electric panels or hydronic tubing to heat your home. As with radiant ceilings, the main concern with using the hydronic form is the possibility of leaks and water damage. For this reason, most homeowners choose the electric panels.

Because they rely on electricity, they can be costly to operate and tend to make a better choice for those who are in one of two scenarios: they need an additional form of heat, or they are adding onto their home and prefer not to make an extension onto their existing conventional heating system.

The biggest benefit of radiant wall heat is its fast response when turned on. In fact, electric wall panels tend to heat faster than any of the other options discussed here. Also, they can be individually controlled, allowing the user to adjust the temperature to their specifications in each room. Call in professionals likeArnica Heating and Air Conditioning to get your new heating system set up.