Radiant Heating Systems

Radiant Heating Systems

Radiant heating systems supply heat directly to the floor or to panels in the wall or ceiling of a house.

The systems depend mostly on radiant heat transfer– the delivery of heat directly from the hot surface area to the people and things in the space through infrared radiation. Radiant heating is the result you feel when you can feel the warmth of a hot stovetop aspect from across the space. When radiant heat lies in the floor, it is often called radiant floor heating or merely floor heating.

Radiant heating has a variety of advantages. It is more effective than baseboard heating and typically more efficient than forced-air heating since it gets rid of duct losses. People with allergies typically prefer radiant heat since it does not disperse irritants like forced air systems can. Hydronic (liquid-based) systems use little electrical power, an advantage for homes off the power grid or in areas with high electrical energy costs. Hydronic systems can use a wide array of energy sources to heat up the liquid, consisting of standard gas- or oil-fired boilers, wood-fired boilers, solar water heaters, or a mix of these sources. For more on the different types of energy sources and heat circulation systems for home heating, explore our Energy Saver 101 infographic on home heating.

In spite of its name, radiant floor heating depends heavily on convection, the natural blood circulation of heat within a room as air warmed by the floor increases. Radiant floor heater are considerably different from the radiant panels used in walls and ceilings. For this reason, the following areas discuss glowing floor heat and radiant panels separately.


There are 3 types of glowing floor heat– glowing air floorings (air is the heat-carrying medium), electric radiant floors, and warm water (hydronic) radiant floors. You can even more classify these types by setup. Those that use the large thermal mass of a concrete slab floor or light-weight concrete over a wooden subfloor are called “wet setups,” and those in which the installer “sandwiches” the glowing floor tubing between two layers of plywood or attaches the tubing under the ended up floor or subfloor are called “dry installations.”



Air can not hold big quantities of heat, so glowing air floors are not affordable in domestic applications, and are rarely set up. Although they can be integrated with solar air heating unit, those systems suffer from the obvious drawback of only producing heat in the daytime, when heating loads are usually lower. The inefficiency of aiming to heat a home with a traditional heater by pumping air through the floors during the night surpasses the advantages of using solar heat during the day. Although some early solar air heater used rocks as a heat-storage medium, this method is not advised (see solar air heating unit).


Electric radiant floorings generally consist of electric cable televisions constructed into the floor. Systems that feature mats of electrically conductive plastic installed on the subfloor below a floor covering such as tile are also readily available.

Since of the relatively high cost of electrical energy, electric radiant floors are usually just cost-efficient if they include a significant thermal mass such as a thick concrete floor and your electric utility company offers time-of-use rates. Time-of-use rates permit you to “charge” the concrete floor with heat during off-peak hours (approximately 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.). If the floor’s thermal mass is big enough, the heat saved in it will keep your house comfy for eight to ten hours without any more electrical input, especially when daytime temperatures are substantially warmer than nighttime temperatures. This saves a substantial number of energy dollars compared with heating at peak electrical rates throughout the day.

Electric radiant floors may also make good sense for home additions if it would be impractical to extend the heating unit into the brand-new area. Nevertheless, homeowners ought to examine other alternatives, such as mini-split heat pumps, which run more efficiently and have actually the included benefit of providing cooling.


Hydronic (liquid) systems are the most popular and cost-effective radiant heating systems for heating-dominated climates. Hydronic radiant floor systems pump heated water from a boiler through tubing laid in a pattern under the floor. In some systems, controlling the circulation of warm water through each tubing loop by using zoning valves or pumps and thermostats regulates room temperatures. The cost of installing a hydronic glowing floor varies by area and depends on the size of the home, the kind of setup, the floor covering, remoteness of the site, and the cost of labor.


Whether you use cables or tubing, the approaches of installing electric and hydronic glowing systems in floorings are comparable.

So-called “wet” installations embed the cables or tubing in a solid floor and are the oldest form of modern radiant floor systems. The tubing or cable can be embedded in a thick concrete foundation piece (commonly used in “slab” cattle ranch houses that don’t have basements) or in a thin layer of concrete, plaster, or other material set up on top of a subfloor. If concrete is used and the new floor is not on solid earth, additional floor support may be necessary because of the included weight. You should consult a professional engineer to figure out the floor’s carrying capacity.

Thick concrete slabs are ideal for storing heat from solar energy systems, which have a changing heat output. The drawback of thick slabs is their sluggish thermal action time, makings strategies such as night or daytime obstacles difficult if not difficult. The majority of professionals advise preserving a continuous temperature in houses with these heater.

Due to current developments in floor innovation, so-called “dry” floors, in which the cables or tubing run in an air area underneath the floor, have been acquiring in popularity, generally due to the fact that a dry floor is much faster and cheaper to build. But because dry floors include warming an air space, the radiant heat system has to run at a greater temperature.

Some dry setups include suspending the tubing or cable televisions under the subfloor in between the joists. This approach generally needs drilling through the floor joists to install the tubing. Reflective insulation needs to likewise be set up under televisions to direct the heat upward. Tubing or cables may likewise be installed from above the floor, in between two layers of subfloor. In these instances, liquid tubing is frequently fitted into aluminum diffusers that spread the water’s heat throughout the floor in order to heat the floor more evenly. The tubing and heat diffusers are protected in between furring strips (sleepers), which bring the weight of the new subfloor and completed floor surface area.

At least one company has enhanced on this idea by making a plywood subfloor material produced with tubing grooves and aluminum heat diffuser plates built into them. The producer claims that this item makes a radiant floor system (for new construction) significantly cheaper to install and faster to respond to room temperature changes. Such items likewise permit making use of half as much tubing or cabling, since the heat transfer of the floor is considerably enhanced compared with more traditional dry or wet floors.


Ceramic tile is the most common and reliable floor covering for glowing floor heating, since it conducts heat well and includes thermal storage. Typical floor coverings like vinyl and linoleum sheet items, carpeting, or wood can also be used, however any covering that insulates the floor from the space will reduce the efficiency of the system.

If you desire carpets, use a thin carpet with dense cushioning and set up as little carpeting as possible. If some spaces, but not all, will have a floor covering, then those spaces must have a different tubing loop to make the system heat these spaces more effectively. This is due to the fact that the water flowing under the covered floor will need to be hotter to compensate for the floor covering. Wood floor covering need to be laminated wood floor covering rather of solid wood to minimize the possibility of the wood shrinking and cracking from the drying results of the heat.


Wall- and ceiling-mounted radiant panels are generally made from aluminum and can be heated with either electrical power or with tubing that carries hot water, although the latter creates concerns about leak in wall- or ceiling-mounted systems. The majority of commercially readily available glowing panels for houses are electrically heated.

Like any kind of electric heat, radiant panels can be pricey to operate, but they can supply supplemental heating in some rooms or can offer heat to a home addition when extending the conventional heating unit is unwise.

Glowing panels have the quickest response time of any heating innovation and– because the panels can be separately controlled for each space– the fast reaction function can lead to cost and energy cost savings compared to other systems when spaces are occasionally inhabited. When entering a space, the resident can increase the temperature level setting and be comfortable within minutes. As with any heater, set the thermostat to a minimum temperature that will prevent pipelines from freezing.

Radiant heat panels run on a line-of-sight basis– you’ll be most comfortable if you’re close to the panel. Some individuals find ceiling-mounted systems uneasy because the panels heat up the top of their heads and shoulders more effectively than the rest of their bodies.


Last updated on September 16th, 2019

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