Radiant Floor Heating System vs Forced Air System

A radiant floor heating system.

There are several differences between a radiant floor heating system and a forced air heating system. These two systems are distinct in almost every aspect from their installation to their method of operation.

Installation and Setup

A radiant floor heating system consists of metal pipes or coils under the floor. The pipes can carry heated water or air, and the coils are made of high resistance elements that heat up when electricity is passed through them. A radiant floor heating system installation requires the removal of the existing floor so that the heating elements can be installed underneath. As a result, this setup is only practical in new homes under construction or in buildings that are being renovated.

A forced air heating system consists of a central furnace that operates on gas or electricity. This furnace is connected to a network of ducts, vents, and registers in every area of the building. The heating system collects cool air from all around the house which is heated up at the furnace and then sent back to the house through the ductwork. Each room in the home has registers that let out the warm air, which increases the temperature.

Fuel Options

Most forced air heating systems operate on gas or electricity. With radiant floor heating systems, you can choose between gas, electricity, wood, kerosene, or oil if you have a hydronic system. A radiant heat system that pumps hot water through the under floor pipe network is known as a hydronic system. The option of using water is an added benefit since heated water retains warmth longer and is cheaper to operate than an electric heating system.

Pros and Cons of Both Systems

Most forced air heating systems can accommodate central humidifiers, air conditioners, and air purifiers. With a radiant floor heating system, you can only heat up your home. Also, because the system is concealed, repairs are much more difficult and expensive as compared to a forced air system.

Loss of heat through ductwork is minimal with a radiant floor heating system because the heating process is not reliant on warm air. With a forced air heating system, the temperature is often uneven, which reduces its efficiency. This is because warm air rises to the ceiling, making lower parts of the home cooler. Air leaks, which are a common problem in forced air systems, are not an issue with radiant heat. You also have to spend considerable energy in heating up the entire house even when it is not fully occupied. A radiant floor heating system can run in different zones which can be controlled at different temperatures, resulting in energy savings.

Radiant floor heating systems heat up your living space much faster and retain heat longer. Because there is minimal air movement, there is a reduced incidence of allergies and airborne pollutants in the home. A forced air heating system requires regular inspection and maintenance. Radiant floor heating systems can provide good service for several decades. You only have to inspect your water boiler approximately once every year if you have a hydronic system.