Radiant Floor Heat Compared to Forced-Air Systems

What are the Differences Between Traditional Heating Systems and Radiant Heat?

A room with radiant in-floor space heating will have a very uniform temperature from the ceiling to the floor. Heating a basement floor is one example of an ideal application for a radiant heat system. If you've lived in a house with forced-air heating, you know that you can crank the heat up, but the basement (and floors) tend to remain chilly. Installing a radiant floor warming system will add comfort and warmth to your lifestyle because heat radiates evenly from the warm floor up, resulting in energy efficient, comfortable heat.

Electric radiant heated floors compared to forced air heating

Warm air that is heated with a forced-air furnace is blown from the vent before ascending rapidly upward to the ceiling, leaving the floors relatively cold. This is not an efficient way to heat a home. Although the air is being heated, the floors and surrounding objects remain chilled, resulting in an uncomfortable environment for children who spend most of their time playing on the floor. Below is an in-depth comparison of electric radiant heat systems vs. conventional heating systems with a blower.

Heating System Comparison
Efficiency Electric Radiant Heat System Forced Air and Gas Heating System
Efficiency at 100% of capacity 100% 60-90%
Efficiency at 50% of capacity 100% 30-60%
Efficient - relative thermal 100% 50-75%
100% of energy is delivered to the heating element
Proper sized capacity of "Off Peak" conditions YES NO
Maintenance Electric Radiant Heat System Forced Air and Gas Heating System
Annual Maintenance Required - Clean or change filters >NO YES
Easy to repair YES NO
Controls - simple and reliable YES VARIES
Cost Savings Electric Radiant Heat System Forced Air and Gas Heating System
Expandable - easily and economically YES NO
Compatible with all Floor Coverings YES YES
Floor space required for installation (mechanical room) NO YES
Decorating limitations for furnishings, wall coverings, etc. (no registers, grills, radiators) NO YES
Simple Installation and Operation YES NO
Structural building cost increases required to accommodate NO NO
Venting required to outside and combustion air required NO YES
Concrete required - regular or lightweight NO NO
Remodeling Electric Radiant Heat System Hydronic Radiant Heat System
Retrofit-ability in existing concrete or asphalt YES NO
Retrofit into joist space effectively YES NO
Simple modification for remodeling YES NO
Easy and effective for large or small areas YES NO
Minimal floor section height increase (1/8" or less) YES YES
Health and Safety Electric Radiant Heat System Hydronic Radiant Heat System
Health & Medical (doesn't distribute dust, pollen, allergens through the air) YES NO
Environmentally-friendly (greenhouse, glycol, etc.) YES NO
Safety (no high-voltage, no hot surfaces, no combustible gases) YES NO

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