Despite having technically been in use since the Roman Empire, radiant heating is seen by many as the latest and greatest central heating technology, superseding the previous king of climate control, forced air.
However, although radiant heat does have some significant benefits, it’s not always going to be the best option.
Much like anything else in life, when it comes to selecting your heating system, the devil is in the details. For some projects, there’s no doubt that radiant heating is the only way to go, but for others, you’d be much better off using an alternative system.To help you figure out whether now’s a good time to upgrade the heating system in your property, let’s take a look at all the pros and cons of radiant heating, but first, a quick definition…
What Is Radiant Heating?
Heat can only travel via one of three ways:
- Conduction — Heat traveling through an object.
- Convection — Heat molecules rising above dense cold molecules.
- Radiation — Heat travels through the air via photon energy exchange.
Forced air climate control units use convection, and hot water radiators and column heaters utilize conduction, but under-floor heating relies on radiation to warm a space, which is why it’s referred to as radiant heating.
It involves the heating of pipes beneath the floor that then force heat upwards into the room. These pipes typically weave a comprehensive network under the floorboards of a room, ensuring a wide, even spread of heat.
The Pros Of Radiant Heating
With the basics covered, we’re ready to get into the nitty-gritty!
Hot water radiators are relatively effective heating mechanisms, but they have a couple of glaring flaws, the biggest being the locality of their thermal impact.
As you’ll only get one or two radiators per room in a typical house, it’s impossible for them to supply even heat.
No matter how you approach radiator installation, as the heat is only emanating from that one section of the room, it’s bound to be riddled with hot and cool spots.
The closer you are to the radiators, the hotter the air will be, and the further away you get from them, the cooler the air will be.
Forced air suffers a similar failure. HVAC systems are locked in a constant stop-start pattern, warming the home when it gets cool then stopping once a predetermined temperature is reached, leading to some pretty uncomfortable temperature swings.
By contrast, radiant heating systems provide a uniform spread of heat throughout a house — No temperature fluctuations and no localized thermals!
The location of hot water radiators also inhibits efficiency, as the heat takes longer to warm the entire room, and forced air rises quickly above our heads due to convection, meaning we don’t really feel the full benefit.
Radiant heating, on the other hand, travels up through the floor, ensuring we feel the heat throughout the room quickly and that we feel it for a long time.
This can potentially save you a fortune on the energy bill, as you wouldn’t have to run a radiant heating network for as long as alternatives.
You can always tell if a property is warmed by forced air. How? Because forced air makes an absolute racket, that’s how.
I mean, seeing that these systems essentially blow small wind storms through our homes, they’re bound to be a little noisy, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Almost completely silent, the only way you’ll know that your radiant heating system is active is, well… the heat.
Forced air can certainly stir up some dust in a home, which is bad news for anyone, but if you or any of your cohabitants suffer with respiratory ailments such as asthma or bronchitis, it can really diminish the quality of life living in the property.
As it works without forcefully displacing air, radiant heating poses no such hazard to the repository challenged, ensuring all inhabitants can breathe freely.
Not only are traditional heating systems noisy, they’re downright ugly too!
Forced air systems require the installation of unsightly vents throughout the property, and radiators scattered haphazardly around a home are even more of an eyesore.
Sure, it’s a purely aesthetic issue, but no such problem exists with radiant heating systems, as all the hardware is tucked nicely away beneath your floorboards, meaning your decor can run uncontested wall to wall in your home.
While forced air systems don’t take up much usable space, radiators certainly do, and even though they’re quite flat, you cannot block them with furniture, which limits your options when it comes to organizing your rooms.
Conversely, as radiant heating is completely hidden from sight in space, it gives us far more options in terms of interior decor and layout.
The Cons Of Radiant Heating
Houses are designed and built with a particular heating system in mind, meaning swapping that system out for radiant heating can be a pretty challenging process, one that might take a while and cost a pretty penny.
For this reason, radiant heating is a more popular option for new builds or intensive renovations than it is as a straight substitution for an existing heating system.
That said, there are ways to limit the invasiveness of radiant heating. Take this radiant heating mat, for instance.
It still needs to be installed beneath your floor but can be done so much quicker than a hydrothermal network.
In order to install a radiant heating system, you’ll first need a quality boiler, which can certainly increase up-front costs, but considering radiant heating is 25% more efficient than forced air and hot water radiators, you save plenty of money each month on running costs.
With out-of-sight-out-of-mind installation, uniform heating, and a lower energy burden, radiant heating is quickly sweeping the nation, helping people save money and stay cozy come winter.
Even though it’s not always a viable option, it’s clear that the pros of installing a radiant heating system far outweigh the cons. Just bear in mind that typical installation can be time-consuming and costly.