Which Is Better, Forced-Air or Radiant Heat?
Updated: Jan 20
Few are aware of how much more efficient radiant heat can be compared to forced air systems. Read more and you will be pleasantly surprised about how radiant heat could be your next choice of heating.
In the radiant floor vs. forced-air heating debate, radiant floor always wins because it provides a quiet, even heat and eliminates the allergy problems often associated with heating ducts. But there’s another reason why radiant floor heating is superior to its blowy cousin—it’s simply more efficient.
The Problem with Forced Air
Forced hot air systems are also subject to something known as parasitic heat loss
Anyone who’s ever lived with a forced hot air system is familiar with the challenges of this type of heat, which is akin to warming your home with a series of hot-air hand dryers mounted in the ceiling or floor. The room warms quickly, but then cools equally fast, forming a yo-yo heating pattern that can prompt you to constantly adjust your thermostat, causing your furnace to turn on and off, wasting energy.
Forced hot air systems are also subject to something known as parasitic heat loss. Because the air from the furnace and air handler has to travel through a series of tubes to get to its intended room, there are many opportunities for it to leak wherever there are small openings in the ducts. Also, the ducts for this type of system often travel through cold attics or basements, increasing the chance that heat will be lost as the warm air travels to the rooms in your home.
The warm air released by forced-air systems either pumps out through grates in the ceiling, where it tends to stay, or it shoots out of vents in the floor and flies quickly up to the ceiling. The result is stratification—a situation where the top of your room is warm (sometimes as much as 10 degrees warmer) and the center and bottom part of your room is cooler. This means you’ll turn your thermostat up higher to get the heat to reach the portion of the room in which you actually live. All this air movement also has the paradoxical effect of cooling you. Think about being outside in the sun on a cool day. You might feel comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt until a breeze blows. Forced hot air systems create breezes in your home all the time.
Finally, it is difficult to create zones with a forced hot air system. As a result, you have to heat your entire home to one temperature, or, if you have a dual-floor system, you have to heat an entire level. Because you might need heat only in the few rooms you occupy the most, you are effectively throwing money away by warming empty spaces.
The Benefits of Radiant Heat
Because the heating elements are in direct contact with the floor, there is very little parasitic heat loss, as there are no long pathways for the warmth to travel.
A radiant floor system solves all of the inefficiencies inherent in forced-air systems, with some studies showing that they are as much as 30 percent more efficient.
Because the heating elements are in direct contact with the floor, there is very little parasitic heat loss, as there are no long pathways for the warmth to travel. Air doesn’t shoot out of vents in this kind of system, so there are no breezes to contend with, which allows you to keep the thermostat lower. The blower in a forced-air system typically requires nine times the electricity used by the pumps in radiant systems. Plus, the heat is also more consistent with radiant flooring. Rather than getting blasts of warm air that dramatically raise the room’s temperature, radiant heat provides a continuous level of warmth, which means less fussing with the thermostat.
Another major benefit of radiant over forced-air heating is the fact that 50 percent of the heat it produces comes from infrared, a form of invisible light. This type of heat works best as you get closer to it (think about a light bulb); therefore, because radiant heat is embedded in the floor, it will keep you warmer than heat that congregates up near the ceiling. This saves energy not only because you can lower your thermostat, but also because radiant systems need to produce heat in just the 24°C - 27°C (75°F - 80 °F), as opposed to the 50°C - 60°C (120°F - 140°F) temperatures generated by forced-air systems.
Feeling Warm All Over Begins with The Feet
Because the TruHeat heating systems heat rooms through the floors, the air temperature is always highest at floor level and decreases steadily toward the ceiling. That’s comfort!
It’s true. When your feet are warm, you feel warmer and more comfortable all over. Because the TruHeat heating systems heat rooms through the floors, the air temperature is always highest at floor level and decreases steadily toward the ceiling. That’s comfort! The moisture content of the room is more stable and healthy. Unlike forced air heat, radiant heat is less likely to dry out your nasal passages, less likely to dry out the skin, and less likely to cause damage to furniture. Because the air is not dehumidified, it feels several degrees warmer than it really is. And for every single degree of lower temperature, you save energy and money.
Even More Efficiency
Because of our patented metallic heat tape elements, our systems are far more conductive than wire based or hydronic systems.
So, there’s little doubt: Radiant systems will save you money and energy usage over forced hot air systems. But is there an even more efficient form of radiant floor heating? Yes.
This is where TruHeat systems come in. Because of our patented metallic heat tape elements, our systems are far more conductive than wire based or hydronic systems. Not only do our systems heat in minutes compared to hours but due to the larger surface area of our heating elements, the heat is transferred to the floors much quicker and is distributed more evenly. Additionally, TruHeat systems cover a much larger surface of the floor compared to all other radiant systems. In fact, our systems cover up to 70% of the floor which means our heating elements do not need to heat to use high temperatures to be effective. They operate at an operating temperature of 28°C - 30°C (82°F - 86°F) and still produce the same room temperatures as other radiant systems. The faster heat up time and the lower operating temperatures significantly reduce energy consumption without sacrificing comfort. This will also result in an energy savings of 10 to 20 percent—and that’s above and beyond the savings you’d see just switching to any radiant floor system.