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What is Radiant Heating: A Comprehensive Guide


Key Notes

  • Radiant heating is an efficient heating system that warms up spaces through infrared radiation from heated surfaces. It directly warms objects and people instead of just heating the air, leading to a comfortable warmth similar to sunlight.
  • There are two main types of radiant heating: Hydronic systems (using heated pipes) and electric systems (using electric heating wires). The benefits of electric radiant heating systems greatly outweigh hydronic radiant heating systems.
  • Despite the higher initial installation cost and slower heating process, radiant heating systems are more energy-efficient and provide a more evenly distributed and comfortable heat.

Radiant Heat Definition

radiant heating

Radiant heating is a method of heating a space directly through the emission of infrared radiation from a heated surface. Instead of heating the air, like conventional heating systems, radiant heating warms up objects and people in its path, providing a more even and comfortable warmth. 

It works much like the sun: although the air outside may be cold, when you’re standing in the sunlight, you feel warm. This is because the sun’s radiant heat directly warms your skin and clothes. 

Similarly, radiant heating systems, such as radiant floor heating or radiant heat panels, transfer heat directly to the objects in the room, leading to a more efficient and pleasant heating experience.

Radiant Heat Cost Analysis

Radiant heating systems can pose higher upfront costs due to their complex installation process.

However, Operating costs are tied to the wattage and local kWh cost. For instance, a 400W panel costs around $0.05/hour, based on a $0.14/kWh average electricity cost.

Radiant heat panels directly warm objects and people, retaining heat longer and possibly reducing energy consumption. They often don’t need to run all day to maintain comfortable temperatures.

Though radiant heat systems may have higher upfront costs, their efficient operation can yield lower long-term costs, making them a potentially economical choice. 

Specific costs vary depending on installation details, space characteristics, and local electricity costs. Consulting with a heating professional is recommended for a precise cost estimate. Feel free to reach out for a free consultation with us at Greenwave if you want help deciding if an installation would be a worthwhile investment.

Radiant Heat Mats

Our main protagonists in this radiant tale are the radiant underfloor heat mats. These underfloor superheroes work by transforming cold tiles into a warm oasis, providing indirect, diffused heat that rises from the floor and is absorbed by surrounding objects, thereby warming the entire room.

Hydronic systems use heated pipes, whereas electric radiant floor heating systems employ electric heating wires. The former might leave a dent in your wallet with their installation costs but are generally cheaper in the long run. The latter, with their lower installation cost and minimal maintenance requirements, are energy-efficient and use less energy than your average space heater.

Hydronic vs Electric Radiant Floor Heating

types of radiant floor heating
Hydronic SystemsElectric Systems
Initial Installation CostsHighLower
Long-term Running CostsLess ExpensiveDepends on Electricity Rates
Maintenance RequirementsRegularMinimal
Energy EfficiencyHighHigh
SuitabilityNew buildsRetrofit and New builds

The Use of Radiant Panel

Radiant panels, the silent sentinels on your walls or ceilings, are champions of electromagnetic radiation. They provide a more energy-efficient, quieter, and evenly distributed heating experience compared to traditional convection heaters.

What is the difference between radiators and radiant panels?

Radiators, contrary to their radiant name, do not warm rooms by creating radiant heat. They work on the principle of convection by warming the air that rises to the ceiling and cools down again. Radiant panels, in contrast, are more akin to our beloved sun. They radiate their warmth to people and objects in their vicinity.

Energy Consumption of Radiant Heat Panels

Understanding the energy consumption of radiant heat panels is crucial to calculating their operating cost. The energy use of a radiant heat panel depends on its wattage, which can be calculated by dividing the total wattage by 1000 and then multiplying by your local kWh cost. 

As mentioned above, a 400W panel consumes 0.4 kWh per hour. If the national average electricity cost is $0.14/kWh, this panel would cost around $0.05 per hour to operate.

Crucially, radiant heat panels usually do not need to run all day to maintain comfortable temperatures. Because radiant heating systems heat objects and people directly rather than warming the air, the heat is retained for longer. This leads to less continuous operation and, as a result, lower energy consumption.

However, the actual energy consumption and cost will vary based on factors like the size and insulation of the room, the outside temperature, and individual comfort preferences. It’s recommended to consult with a heating professional to get a more accurate estimate of potential energy costs in your specific circumstances.

The Pros and Cons of Radiant Heat Panels

Like every superhero, radiant heat panels also have their strengths and weaknesses. Here are a few:



Making the Decision

Whether you should install a radiant heating system depends on various factors such as your house’s design, your budget, and your personal comfort preferences. While radiant heating systems offer several advantages, they are not without their drawbacks, as we have mentioned above.

For instance, if you are building a new home, you might want to consider a hydronic radiant floor heating system. These systems can lower operating costs in the long term, particularly if you pair them with a high-efficiency boiler or a heat pump.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to retrofit your existing house with radiant heating, an electric radiant floor heating system or radiant panels might be a more feasible option. They are easier and less disruptive to install, and they can be a great way to add a touch of luxury to your home.

As always, it’s recommended to consult with a heating professional to ensure that you choose the best system for your needs.


Radiant heating systems, with their gentle, even heat, have the potential to revolutionize your home’s comfort level. By directly heating the objects and people in a room, these systems create a cozy atmosphere that traditional heating methods often can’t match. Though the initial installation costs can be high, the long-term benefits and energy savings can make radiant heating a worthwhile investment.

So, if you’re considering radiant heating, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Greenwave, we can offer free advice and a no-obligation quote for all types of radiant heating!