Radiant heat may be costly to install, but it’s among the most energy-efficient methods of heating your home. If you’re thinking of using a radiant heating system in your home, energy-efficient upgrades could save you 5% to 30% on your monthly energy bill while also ensuring the health and safety of your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Before deciding on radiant heat, learn how radiant heating systems work and whether it’s worth installing in your home.
— What is radiant heat and how does it work?
— The pros and cons of radiant heating systems.
— How much does radiant heating cost to install?
— Does radiant heat increase or lower heating costs?
— Do radiant heating systems affect the resale value of a home?
[Read: How to Winterize a House]
What Is Radiant Heat and How Does it Work?
Radiant heat is the transfer of heat from a hot surface. A fire in a fireplace produces radiant heat, as do radiant cooktops and electric heaters. Radiant heating systems provide heat to the floors or panels in the wall or ceiling of a house.
“Radiant systems run beneath the floor,” says Ross McCord, creative/brand manager for Warmboard, manufacturer of hydronic radiant floor heating panels. “The floor heats up and releases that heat to the room and is absorbed by objects. The floor feels nice and gently warm, and there is a quiet warmth throughout the house. House temperatures stay more steady and consistent.”
Forced-air heating systems push hot hair into the house by a loud blower or furnace, McCord adds. “As the air cools, fans constantly turn on and off all day and night to try and maintain the desired temperature,” he says.
There are also different types of radiant heating systems: electric, hydronic and air:
— Electrical radiant heating systems use electric coils to produce heat. “This typically will go in a small area of the house. It makes the floor feel nice but is generally not used as the primary heat source in a home,” McCord explains.
— Hydronic radiant heating systems use a boiler to heat water, which is then pumped throughout the house in tubing underneath the floor. “This method is highly energy-efficient and is often the sole heating system for the entire home,” McCord says.
— Air radiant heating systems use heated air for heat transfer, but this method is considered the least efficient and not usually recommended.
The Pros and Cons of Radiant Heating Systems
— Electric radiant heating is inexpensive to install.
— Hydronic heating systems are very efficient to operate.
— No loud fans mean they’re quiet.
— The system allows for uniform heating.
— Radiant heat improves air quality.
— Radiant heat is energy-efficient.
— Electric radiant heating can be expensive to operate, depending on local electricity rates.
— Hydronic systems are expensive to install.
— Radiant heat is difficult to retrofit and may require major renovations.
— It requires a longer installation time.
— Floor heating systems could increase the floor height in a room.
How Much Does Radiant Heating Cost to Install?
Installation costs depend on what type of radiant heating system you use, the size of your home and where you live.
For an electric radiant heating system, McCord estimates that the product will cost between $5 and $10 per square foot and installation will run between $10 and $15 per square foot. For a hydronic radiant heating system, he says product costs vary wildly.
“Some materials are cheaper but more expensive to install and less energy-efficient,” McCord claims. “Warmboard has a higher product cost but much lower labor costs.”
Estimates can also vary depending on where you live. “In some parts of the country, the cost can be around $20 per square foot and in other parts, closer to $35 per square foot,” McCord says.
Does Radiant Heat Increase or Lower Heating Costs?
McCord says that electric radiant heating systems will cause energy bills to go up, but this varies by region. Hydronic is much more energy-efficient than many other heating systems, which means a lower energy bill. “Generally, homeowners can expect a savings of about 25%,” he says.
The average price to run a radiant heating system for 24 hours is $3 compared to $20 for traditional air heating systems, according to HomeAdvisor.
If you have a hydronic radiant heating system, the size of your boiler and the type of fuel it uses could affect operational costs. Heating with a gas boiler costs $1 to $1.40 per hour of usage and between $800 and $2,000 per year, according to home improvement information network HomeGuide.
Do Radiant Heating Systems Impact the Resale Value of a Home?
“It can, but its hard to say. There’s no data to really support this,” McCord says. “The percentage of homes with radiant floors is relatively small.”
For those who know about radiant heating, it could make the home more desirable than one with a heating system using forced air. “Also, radiant homes are becoming more prevalent, so more people are wanting it and seeking it out. Just no data yet about influencing home price,” McCord adds.
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