Radiant Floor Heating vs. Forced Air

There are many reasons why radiant heat is the preferred home heating method by homeowners, architects and contractors alike. Compared to forced hot air, radiant heated flooring is more comfortable, more energy efficient, provides a healthier environment and is more aesthetically pleasing.

Radiant Heated Flooring = Comfort
Comfort is hard to define. It’s better understood as the absence of discomfort.

With radiant heat there are no forced air registers to see, no noise or dust from mechanical blowers, no hot air blowing on you or collecting at the ceiling wasting energy, and no cold floors to chill your feet. Warmth emanates from the floor beneath your feet and it always feels just right. The warmth of a radiant floor is a subtle experience — cozy, quiet, clean and invisible. Radiant heated flooring is an experience inhabitants will never forget or want to live without.

Radiant Heated Flooring = Energy Savings
A typical radiant heated home in the United States can expect a 25% energy savings over a conventional forced air home. This 25% savings can be attributed to a number of factors listed below (The 25% figure comes from a 1998 study by Kansas State University and the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers [ASHRAE])

Parasitic losses
Parasitic loss refers to energy lost due to inherent inefficiencies of a system. Duct work in a forced air heating system, for example, can be difficult to permanently seal/insulate and is often located in unheated crawl spaces or basements. As hot air is blown through these large ducts, heat is lost through the tiny flaws in the system and escapes into unknown areas. Additionally, when hot air is blown into a room with a door closed, it can cause an increase in air pressure. This pressure pushes the heat through weather stripping on windows. All of these parasitic losses add up in forced air systems add up to a 30% less efficient system.

Lower ceiling temperatures
Forced air systems emit hot air at a temperature of approximately 120–140 degrees. This scorched air rapidly rises creating a temperature zone that frequently is over 10 degrees warmer than the air temperature below. This stratification effect becomes greater as the ceiling height becomes taller. When ceilings are hot and just below a cold roof, heat loss is quite high. It is precisely because of this effect that we insulate ceilings and attics so much.

Zoning reduces energy usage
Most forced air heated homes have a single thermostat, in other words, they are single zone systems. This is because forced air systems are inherently difficult and therefore expensive to zone. Radiant heated flooring systems on the other hand are easy and cost effective to zone which allows maximum control over the interior environment and increased energy savings.

Radiant Heated Flooring = Healthy Heat
Forced air systems not only blow hot air, they also push allergens, dust and

other airborne particles to every room in your house. Improved indoor air quality can reduce allergies, medical bills, incidences of asthma and more. European studies indicate that dust mite populations are reduced as much as 90% in radiant heated homes. And, a quiet, peaceful environment (no noisy fans and blowers) is a healthier and more relaxing environment too.

Radiant Heated Flooring = Design Freedom
Architects gain total design freedom because there are no floor registers, no baseboard radiators, and no wall or ceiling chases. Furniture can be placed anywhere without regard to registers. And rooms with high, open ceilings and/or floor-to-ceiling windows can be heated easily and efficiently. Mechanical systems for radiant systems can also be designed more freely because of the ability to easily interface with solar, geothermal and cogeneration fuel cells.

As you’ve learned there are many reasons why radiant heated flooring is the optimum way to heat a home, especially when compared to forced air. When asking any homeowner who has radiant heating what they could not live without in their new home they will resolutely state radiant heated flooring

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