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6 Frequently Asked Questions About Radiant Heat

April 28, 2017

Radiant heat: It’s widely popular around the world, especially in Europe and Asia, but remains rare and insufficiently understood in the United States. In part, that’s because in the domestic market, forced air continues to dominate—so much so that many average homeowners mistakenly view forced air not as one way, but as the only way to achieve winter comfort. In recent years, however, frustrated by the underwhelming performance and overwhelming costs associated with forced air, many have begun to explore competing options like radiant heat. Those who take the time to understand radiant heat often end up choosing it over alternatives. But if the technology has never been on your radar before, its innovations and advantages may not be obvious. To learn more about why it now garners so much attention from comfort-craving, savings-seeking homeowners, click through now for all the answers to the most frequently asked questions about radiant heat.

By Steven Fox

  • 1. Is radiant heating a new technology?

    Far from it. In fact, radiant heating traces its roots all the way back to the Roman Empire, where notable buildings were designed to include hypocausts—narrow chambers that would distribute the heat generated by subterranean fires. On the other side of the globe, Koreans had struck upon a similar heating method, involving the strategic placement of fire-heated stones. Centuries later, in the 1940s, radiant heat finally arrived in America, thanks to the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. If you’re only hearing it about now, it’s because manufacturers have refined the technology to the point of making it a viable, if not su perior home heating alternative.

     

    2. How does radiant heating work?

    How does radiant heat work

    Forget what you know about traditional HVAC, because when it comes to its system design and mode of operation, radiant heating shares little in common with older, increasingly outmoded systems like forced air. In the case of forced air, the furnace blows heated air into the living spaces indirectly, via bulky metal supply ducts. Radiant heating, meanwhile, relies not on air, but on something much more effectively controlled—water. In a home heated by a radiant system, boiler-fired water pumps through a network of tubes set into panels installed beneath the floor. The tubes heat the panels, and the panels, in turn, radiate warmth into the home from the ground up.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • 3. What makes the system unique?

    Though radiant heating earns praise for features like quiet, dust-free operation, experts agree the technology stands out most for the quality of comfort it delivers. Other systems heat inconsistently, with the result that your comfort often depends on your location relative to the nearest radiator, baseboard, or vent. But with a radiant system, you get uniform home heating from wall to wall, room to room, ground level to upper story. That’s because, for one, radiant panels underly the floors in the home, delivering heat evenly across the square footage. For another, the technology doesn’t involve “always rising” warm air. Instead, it concentrates comfort at floor level, where you can actually feel it.

  • 4. Does radiant heating save you money?

    Utility meter

    Yes. Radiant systems operate at least 25% more efficiently than their forced-air counterparts. Why? A leading explanation is that, being ductless, radiant technology sidesteps the heat loss suffered by forced-air heating ducts. When ducts leak—and they often do—the furnace must work harder, which drives up the utility bill. By minimizing heat loss, therefore, radiant technology maximizes savings. But it’s important to note that not every radiant system offers equal efficiency. Much depends on the system design. It requires the least energy of all, because its aluminum-faced panels transfer heat exceptionally well—well enough to save an extra 10% or 20% each month!

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • 5. Is the system compatible with all floor types?

    Radiant heat hardwood floor

    In direct and marked contrast to traditional heating options, radiant technology does nothing to prevent you from designing your home precisely the way you want. You don’t need to work around any awkward, bulky radiators or make any allowance for the clearance needed by a forced-air vent. There’s only one downside: Pros sometimes caution against installing radiant heating panels beneath hardwood or carpeting. But that’s not the case with every radiant system. For instance,  you can enjoy all the benefits of radiant technology, no matter what type of floor you plan to put in.  It requires no sacrifice. In effect, it gives you complete design freedom.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • 6. Is radiant the right choice for remodels?

    In the past, the answer was always no, largely because older radiant systems set their hydronic tubing into slabs of gypsum concrete too heavy to be added in a realistic retrofit scenario. Fortunately, radiant heat technology has come a long way in recent years. It’s not only possible but practical to install radiant heating as part of a remodel. Measuring only 13/16″ thick, Warmboard-R panels fit easily over existing slabs and subfloors and are thin enough not to create unevenness between floors in different rooms. Building a new home? Save money and time by opting for a full-thickness product like Warmboard-S, which doubles as structural subfloor.

     

Ready to install radiant heat?  Contact us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

 

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