Comparing Radiant Heat and Traditional Forced Air Systems

What are the Advantages of Radiant Heat?

A room with radiant heat will have a much more uniform temperature from the ceiling to the floor than one with a forced air heating system. Forced air systems blow heat that quickly rises to the ceiling, and occupants tend to turn up the thermostat to fill the rooms with so much warm air that it eventually "pushes" the heat down to where we can feel it. However, with a radiant floor heating system, the heat originates where we need it most, to warm us from our feet to our heads. The warmth radiates from the floor to other objects and warms the air. The heat is not wasted by immediately gathering at the ceiling. Instead, the warmth is enjoyed from the floor up.

Heating a basement floor is an ideal application for a radiant heat system. If you've lived in a house with forced air, you know that even as you turn the heat up, the basement (especially the floors) tends to remain chilly. Installing a radiant floor warming system changes this, and will add comfort and warmth to your lifestyle. 

Below is a general comparison of electric radiant heat systems and forced air heating systems. (For more information, read the article on Radiant Heat and Forced Air Heating Systems .)

SYSTEM COMPARISON CHART
Radiant Heat vs. Forced Air Heating
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 YES NO
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; inspect for carbon monoxide leaks
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 Forced Air and Gas Heating 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 height increase (1/8-inch or less) YES YES
Health and Safety Electric Radiant Heat System Forced Air and Gas Heating 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