Which Is The Better Option For Your Home: Radiant Heat Or Forced Air?

Which Is The Better Option For Your Home: Radiant Heat Or Forced Air?

Anthony Barnes

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Which is the better option for heating your home? Radiant heat or forced air?

Radiant heat uses infrared rays to transfer heat from hot surfaces to cool ones. This type of heating system is usually installed under floors or walls.

Forced air systems use fans to circulate heated or cooled air throughout a room. They are typically found in homes built before 1970.

Both types of heating systems offer benefits and drawbacks. If you want to save money, consider installing a radiant heater.

However, if you live in a cold climate, you might want to invest in a forced-air system. Read on to find out more about each type of heating system.

What Is Radiant Heat?

When radiant heat is used to heat a space, it transfers heat through infrared radiation. The surface that emits this energy is called a radiator.

Radiators can be placed directly over an electrical heating element, or they can be embedded into a wall.

The advantage of radiant heat is that it doesn’t require ducts or vents. It also heats up faster than other methods.

In addition, it works well with older homes because radiators don’t have moving parts like fans.

Higher efficiency means less energy consumption. Radiators use less energy than other heating systems.

Hydronic systems are more efficient than forced-air systems because they heat up faster and cool down slower.

Dual-zone thermostats help homeowners save money by reducing the amount of time spent adjusting the temperature.

Radiators are heating devices that warm up rooms using heated water circulating in pipes.

They are very discreet because they are hidden inside walls and floors.

They are also very quiet since there are no moving parts. They aren’t allergenic because they don’t use air conditioning units.

Radiant heat works by using hot water pipes to transfer heat into the house.

This method is much more efficient than forced-air heating systems because it doesn’t lose any heat to the outside environment.

The downside of radiant heat is that there’s no way to control how much heat goes where.

You may need to install multiple radiators to evenly distribute the heat throughout a large area.

Radiant heating systems aren’t suitable for whole-house use. Electric radiant heating systems are more expensive than other types of heating systems.

How Does Radiant Heating Work?

Which Is The Better Option For Your Home: Radiant Heat Or Forced Air?

In order to understand how radiant heat works, let’s start by looking at how conventional heating systems work.

Conventional heating systems use convection to move warm air around a house. They rely on airflow created by natural forces such as wind or gravity.

Convection is the process of transferring heat from one place to another by means of a current of air.

A fan blows air across coils that generate warmth. This warmed air then moves through ductwork and circulates throughout a building.

Convection isn’t very efficient. It takes time for the air to travel to different areas of a room.

As a result, most rooms take longer to heat up than they do to cool down.

If you want to heat a specific part of your home quickly, you should look into radiant heat.

Instead of using convection, radiant heat relies on infrared rays to transfer heat. Infrared waves pass through objects without being absorbed.

Infrared waves are invisible to our eyes, but can easily penetrate solid materials.

When these waves hit a surface, they cause molecules within the material to vibrate. These vibrations create heat.

This is why infrared heaters work so well. Because they emit infrared rays, they can heat any object.

Unlike convection, which only heats objects close to its source, infrared heaters can heat faraway objects too.

For example, when you turn on a traditional electric blanket, it warms the top layer of your body.

But if you put the same blanket on the floor, it will heat the entire room.

Radiant heat works the same way. An infrared heater will emit infrared rays that will heat all surfaces in a room.

Why Do I Need To Install Radiant Heat?

Radiant heat offers several advantages over conventional heating systems. For starters, it’s easier to install.

Unlike convection systems, radiant heat requires no ductwork or ventilation. It simply needs a path for the infrared rays to travel.

You won’t need to worry about the temperature of the air inside a room, either.

Since radiant heat doesn’t rely on convection, it doesn’t affect the air quality in a room.

You can also save money on your utility bills. Most people spend more money on their utilities than they do on food.

If you live in a cold climate, radiant heat could be an economical choice.

Radiant heat is also quieter. While convection creates noise, radiant heat barely makes a sound.

What Are Some Best Options For Radiant Heat?

There are many options available for radiant heat. Here are some of the best ones.

Electric Radiant Heaters

Electric radiant heaters are great because they don’t require any wiring. Just plug them into an outlet and they’re ready to go.

They come in two types: direct and indirect. Direct radiant heaters heat a single area. Indirect radiant heaters heat multiple areas simultaneously.

Gas Radiators

Gas radiators are probably the most common type of radiant heat. They’re easy to use and inexpensive.

Gas radiators run off propane or natural gas. You just have to connect a hose to the tank and turn the valve. Then, you’ll be able to heat a room with ease.

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles are another popular choice for radiant heat. They’re easy to clean and maintain.

Wood-Burning Stoves

Wood-burning stoves are perfect for those living in colder climates. They provide warmth while keeping your home free from smoke.

Hydronic Systems

Hydronic systems are similar to radiant heat except they use water instead of infrared rays. This means they can heat up a large space at once.

Solar Energy

Which Is The Better Option For Your Home: Radiant Heat Or Forced Air?

Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Many homeowners are now installing solar panels (see also ‘How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?’) on their homes.

Wall Mounted Radiant Heating Panels

Wall-mounted radiant heating panels are ideal for small spaces. They’re compact and easy to install.

Tile Flooring

Tile floors are fantastic for radiant heat. They keep your feet warm without making the rest of your house hot.

Underfloor Radiant Heat

Underfloor radiant heat is a newer technology that heats the ground beneath your home. It’s great for basements and crawlspaces.

Space Heaters

Space heaters are used to heat rooms during the winter months. They work by using electricity to create heat.

Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is one of the biggest expenses you’ll ever face. But if you want to stay cool, consider adding radiant heat to your system.

Other Ways To Keep Your Home Warm

If you’re not interested in radiant heat, there are other ways to keep your home warm.


Insulation keeps your home warmer by preventing heat loss. The best insulation is blown fiberglass.


Windows let in lots of cold air. So, insulate your windows so you can keep your home nice and warm.


Door seals prevent cold air from entering your home. So, make sure you seal them well.


Plumbing leaks allow cold air into your home. Fix any leaks before they get worse.

Forced Air

Radiant heat is more common in colder climates than in warmer ones.

Heat pumps are also used in some areas because they work better in cold weather than other methods.

There are many styles of heat pumps, but the most common type is called an electric heat pump.

Furnace systems use oil, propane, or natural gases to burn.

Heat exchangers transfer heat from the hot exhaust into the cold incoming air. Heating systems are less efficient than heat pumps.

Forced air systems are used because they’re quiet, and they’re easy to install. There are several reasons why people use forced air systems.

Pros Of Forced Air

A furnace or heat pump purifies and conditions the air. An air filter removes impurities from the air.

Humidifiers (see also ‘Humidifier Leaving White Dust‘) add moisture to the air, while dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air.

A rapid comfort feature makes heating or cooling the room almost instantaneously.

A low installation cost means that the house was built with the proper framing to accommodate the installation process.

Relatively high maintenance means that forced air systems require regular maintenance to stay in peak condition.

This includes keeping filters clean and replacing them regularly. Keeping your system working properly can save money over time.

Noisy operation is common with forced air systems. Outdoor units can be noisy too, but they’re usually less disruptive than indoor ones.

The only HVAC system that moves air around the house to improve air quality.

Forced air heaters circulate air throughout the house to warm or cool the entire space.

Cons Of Forced Air

Mold, mildew, and allergy issues are common in homes using forced air heating systems.

These problems can be reduced by installing quality air filtration systems. Forced air systems are inefficient because they pull in air and push it out.

Leaks occur when air escapes through cracks in ducts. Warm air escaping through open doors or windows lowers the temperature inside your home.

Forced-air heating systems lose heat because of the air leaks. The air goes through a series of tubes before getting into the rooms.

This causes an uneven temperature across the house. Also, the ducts go through cold areas such as the attic or basement, causing more heat loss.

Forced air heating systems (see also ‘What Is Forced Air Heating?‘) are great because they’re easy to install, but they require lots of electricity.

You might want to consider installing an air conditioner instead.

Air conditioning systems are more expensive than forced-air heating systems, but they’re better for the environment.

Comparing The Cost Between The Forced Air And Radiant Heat

Which Is The Better Option For Your Home: Radiant Heat Or Forced Air?

With radiant heat, there is less energy used than with forced air. However, the installation cost is higher than for forced air.

Forced Air Heating Systems are becoming less and less popular as people become more conscious about their health and environment.

Radiant Heat Systems are becoming more popular because they are more energy-efficient and cost-effective than Forced Air.

Radiant heating systems can provide warmth throughout the entire room.

However, if you want to heat an enclosed space such as a garage, you should consider installing a radiant heating system with a fan instead of a hot air system.

A radiant heating system with a blower will circulate heated air throughout the whole room.

This makes them very effective for heating areas that need to be kept warmer than other parts of the room.

Radiant heating is more efficient than forced-air because it heats up the entire room instead of just the space directly below the vent.

Radiant heating is not as expensive as forced air. Radiant heat is very effective but expensive.

It takes more energy to operate than other forms of heating. It also doesn’t provide as much warmth as traditional heating methods.

Electric floor heating is safe for humans and pets. It is more healthy than forced-air heating. Radiated heat is safer than convective heat.

Central Air units are great if you want to save money on energy bills. However, they aren’t very efficient when compared to radiant heat systems.

Radiant heat systems use less electricity than central air, and they last longer. 

Final Thoughts

Radiant floor heating is an easy way to heat your home. Underfloor heating provides significant cost savings on your energy bill.

Remodeling your bathroom is worth considering.

Forced air heating (see also ‘How To Tell If Forced Air Heating Is Gas Or Electric‘) systems are very common due to their efficiency. However, they can also cause problems if used incorrectly.

Radiant heat systems are much more energy-efficient, but they require some work to install.

Radiant heat systems are becoming popular because they are very efficient.

People do not need to worry about losing heat in the summer. Heat is easily transferred throughout the house.

The downside to radiant heat is that repairing the panels can be hard, since they are usually installed underneath floors or on ceilings.

The best overall choice might be a combo of both. Adding in-floor heat can be an easy step to help improve warming in that room.

You could still use your forced air systems, but close off some venting to allow the air to go around the rest of the house.

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age