Cheap Alternatives to Electric Radiant Heat
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Chuck in Pennsylvania on the line who needs some help in making a home purchase decision. How can we help you with that?
CHUCK: Well, looking at a house to purchase and the house has radiant heat in the ceilings of the bedrooms.
CHUCK: The house was built in the 70s, I guess, when they did that. Now, each bedroom has its own thermostat. Would that be efficient with that radiant heat like that or would it be better to go with something like putting a heat pump in?
TOM: Well, you have electric radiant heat. That’s the most – one of the most expensive ways to heat the house. The reason it has individual thermostats is because each one is a separate circuit.
Heat pumps will be a little more cost-efficient, because heat pumps are interesting in that they’re really two systems in one. One is electric-resistance heat, which is designed for the hottest – I’m sorry – which is designed for the coldest periods. But most of the time, it runs in the heat-pump mode, which basically is sort of like an air conditioner that runs backwards.
You know in the summer when you see a window air conditioner and on the inside, it’s blowing the cold air; on the outside, it’s blowing out hot air? You can take that and flip it and blow the hot air in. That’s kind of what a heat pump does: it reverses the refrigeration cycle. But it only maintains that warm temperature for a two-degree spread between what the thermostat’s calling for and what it is in the house.
So let’s say, for example, in the house it’s – you have the thermostat set at 70 and it falls to 69, the heat pump comes on. Falls to 68, heat pump stays on. Falls to 67, heat pump says, “I can’t keep up with this and we’re going to need to bring on the electric heat to kind of give us a little bit of a boost here.” So it kind of works together.
So the electric heat is probably almost as expensive as the radiant. The heat pump would be substantially less. So the thing is, though, if you do this, you’re going to have to run ducts through the house. Do you have air conditioning in the house?
CHUCK: Yes, sir.
TOM: And do you have a ducted air-conditioning system?
CHUCK: Yeah, they’re in the floor. The air conditioning’s in the floor.
TOM: Alright. Well …
CHUCK: And the heat’s in the ceiling, which seemed odd.
LESLIE: It seems totally backwards.
TOM: Yeah, it’s backwards, right? It’s backwards.
CHUCK: Yes, sir.
TOM: Well, listen, the ducts release in the right place for the heat to work. So I think in your situation, I would seriously consider a heat pump for those reasons.
CHUCK: OK. Well, what about a propane gas-fired stove?
TOM: Another good option.
TOM: But just get a really efficient furnace – really efficient propane furnace.
TOM: High-efficiency, OK?
CHUCK: OK. That would be better than a heat pump probably.
TOM: Yeah, that would be less expensive than a heat pump, I think. Yep.
TOM: Good luck with that project.