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  • Radiant Floor Heating vs Forced Air: Pros & Cons

    Green Wave Distribution ~ Jul 27, 2022

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The system homeowners choose to heat their home can impact their comfort throughout the day, how much money they spend on utilities, and ultimately, their quality of life. While there are different systems that homeowners have at their disposal, the most popular options include radiant floor heating and forced air.


Knowing the pros and cons of each of these systems can help you decide which type of heating is right for your project. In this article, we'll talk about radiant heating vs forced air, we'll describe the differences, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating is a method of heating the floor by either hot water or through electricity. The heat is distributed through infrared waves that help keep furnishings and objects in the room warm. Radiant floor heating does less to heat the air and more to heat these objects, and by doing so, this type of heating can keep people warm too.

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Benefits of Radiant Floor Heating

Maintenance. Forced air heating systems require regular maintenance in order to remain efficient. For example, air filters in these systems must be replaced on a regular basis, and ducts need to be cleaned periodically. Radiant heating is different because it doesn't require any of this maintenance. Electric radiant heat systems have no moving parts and do not require any annual maintenance. Water radiant heating systems rely on boilers so, depending on the type of boiler, annual maintenance may be required.


Cost-efficient. Radiant floor heating systems are competitively priced compared to other heating systems. In addition, homeowners with radiant floor heating enjoy cost savings through low installation costs and overall energy efficiency.


In fact, it's believed that radiant floor heating can be as much as 30% more efficient than forced air. This savings can be further extended with the installation of a smart thermostat in the house, which can establish zones that are only heated when the zone is being used. Smart thermostats also provide programmable features that keep the house comfortable when it's needed, and automatically turns off the heat when it's not.


Quiet. While forced air systems make noise when they turn on and during operation, radiant heat is silent and invisible.

Low profile. Radiant heat adds some height to the floor, depending on what kind of system is installed. However, low profile systems are available. In these systems, the flooring requires only an inch or less or space to accommodate the heating system.


No dust. Forced air systems can cause dust to blow around the house. These systems also enable dust to travel through the home, exacerbating allergies. Radiant systems do not have this problem, because there are no fans involved and the heat travels upwards from the ground.


Energy efficiency. Radiant floor heating is a fast-acting heating system that reaches its full temperature quickly and also cools down slowly. It takes only a little energy in this type of heating system to go a long way, and that can help homeowners save money on their home heating system.


Evenly distributed heat. Radiant heating covers the entire floor, therefore covers the entire room evenly. There are no "hot spots" in areas by a vent or duct. This balanced heat distribution creates total comfort for occupants no matter what time of day.

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Disadvantages of Radiant Floor Heating 

Flooring replacement. Most of the time, radiant heating systems are installed alongside the installation of a new floor. However, if you have access to the joists beneath your floor, our STEP® HEAT radiant heating systems can be installed without the need to replace your existing floor!


Elevated floor height. Although there are radiant heating systems that are considered "low profile," these systems still elevate the floor. Most homeowners will never notice the difference, because low profile systems only raise the floor a fraction of an inch, although homeowners that use water-based systems to heat their home will notice a greater loss of height in their rooms.

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Forced Air Heating

Forced air systems are typically made up of ducts (although some systems are ductless). These systems consist of a unit that produces hot air that flows through the system and blows into the rooms that need to be heated. These systems have been in use for a long time.

Benefits of Forced Air Heating

Fast-acting. HVAC systems can turn on with the touch of a button, heat the forced air quickly and then go on to heat the rest of the home rapidly. There's no period for warming up the system: it starts working as soon as the thermostat kicks on.


Tried and true technology. Standard HVAC systems have been in use for decades, and many homes already have the existing infrastructure (ducts, etc) in place to make this technology work. Finding someone to perform repairs is easy because HVAC professionals are common.


Cleans and conditions air. Forced air heating uses filters to keep the air clean as it circulates through the duct system. Some systems also humidify or dehumidify the air, depending on what's needed. Radiant floor heating does not have this feature because radiant heating systems don't push or move air at all.

Disadvantages of Forced Air Heating

Maintenance. HVAC systems need regular tune ups as well as filter changes to keep them functioning properly. HVAC systems are also mechanical, so they can break over time if they're not properly maintained. Ductwork, furnaces, and other components do wear out and need repair or replacement periodically.


Noisy. Blowing air makes noise - as do the components that blow the air. Homeowners may or may not notice the noise from the furnace, but most people do notice the sound their furnace makes when it turns on during the day.


Mold and allergy issues. Mold can be transported through ductwork to other parts of the house. Homeowners who are allergic to mold or dust may find that their allergies are exacerbated when their HVAC system kicks on. This is a sign that their ducts are transporting allergens throughout the house. Changing filters regularly can help, but there's only so much the air filters in these systems can do.


Space Inefficiency furnaces take up space - sometimes, valuable space (if the house is small). Ducts also take up space, although they are built into the walls and floors. For homeowners with a basement, the ducts may take up headspace.

Want Efficient, High Quality Heating? Call Green Wave Distribution

Radiant floor heating delivers high quality, low-cost heating to homeowners. To get started installing radiant floor heating, contact Green Wave Distribution. Or explore some of our other radiant heating systems below: 

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