Forced-air heat may be the most common form of heating system across much of the nation but it has its drawbacks—allergy concerns, duct leakage and the complexity of system zoning can make for an uncomfortable and expensive way to keep your home comfortable in cold weather. Hydronic (hot water) heating, which uses hot water instead of hot air to deliver heat to your home, is a sensible alternative.
Even distribution of warmth is a major benefit of radiant heating. As the name indicates, the warmth must radiate out from the heat source, which means that rooms without properly designed heating can end up having hot and cool zones. Which radiant heat delivery method is better for heat distribution? In this case, there’s a clear winner.
If hot water heat is an option you’d like to consider, there are two different types of distribution systems within this category to consider: radiant floor heating and radiators, giving you greater freedom to choose a heat source that suits your preferences. To help sort out the relative strengths and weaknesses of radiators vs heated floors, consider the following tips. guide.
Even distribution of warmth is a major benefit of any heating system. As the name indicates, the warmth must radiate out from the heat source, which means that rooms without properly designed heating can end up having hot and cool zones. Which radiant heat delivery method is better for heat distribution? In this case, there’s a clear winner.
- Radiant Floor Heating. When it comes to even heating, radiant floors are the better choice because they can be designed specifically to address this issue. When properly planned and installed, radiant floor heating systems provide even warmth throughout a room by ensuring that heating coils are evenly distributed, and heat will then rise up from the floor without the need for air circulation.
- Radiators. Radiators aren’t physically set up to deliver even heat because they tend to occupy a single side or corner of a room, which then heats up faster than the rest of the space, and areas closest to the radiator will always be the warmest. If the radiator is installed near outer walls or windows, this could be a good thing, but when that’s not the case, dramatic hot and cold zone differences within a single room are likely.
There are many factors to consider in determining energy efficiency, but when it comes to heating distribution you the fuel you use can come into play. Radiant floors can use either electricity or water to provide heat, while radiators tend to use water or steam. Electricity is not an efficient option in most cases, though this may depend on utilities costs in your area and how your floor is designed. Modern thermostat controls can help make energy efficiency better for both options, regardless of whether the heat is fueled by electricity or via a conventional hot water heating boiler.
- Radiant Floor Heating. The type of flooring you choose for your heated floors can make a big difference in how efficient it is as well. If you cover radiant floor heating systems with carpet, that will actually insulate the heat and make it less efficient. Concrete, on the other hand, does a good job of storing heat and can stay warm even when the system isn’t actively running.
- Radiators. Heat distribution does come into play when considering energy efficiency. If your radiator isn’t warming your house up in an even manner, you may feel the need to crank the heat, which can mean that you end up paying more for a radiator in the long run.
Heating System Maintenance
Maintenance is a major concern when deciding between radiant heat flooring and radiators. If you have a problem with your system, there’s a big difference between the two with respect to how it’ll get solved and how much that solution will cost.
- Radiant Floor Heating. Diagnosing and repairing problems with heated floors is quite a challenge and may even require that significant portions of flooring are removed in order to provide access to the heating system’s components. The parts of the system that aren’t under the floor are easier to maintain, but the potential cost and complexity of repair is definitely worth considering before going with this option.
- Radiators. On the other hand, radiators are above ground, fully visible and pretty easy to repair and replace. Regular maintenance, such as releasing built-up air in the pipes, is a concern, but this is a pretty quick and easy activity to complete with most radiator systems.
Choosing the Right Option
Ultimately, radiators may come out as the cost-effective choice, while radiant flooring is more of an upgrade. Whichever system you decide to go with, make sure you opt for proper design to optimize efficiency for comfort and cost.