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Forced-Air Heat Vs. Radiant Heat: The Difference

The professionals at Frank Lamparelli can do both!

forced air radiant heat massachusettsIf you’re building a new home, or are renovating and planning to install a new heating system in your South Shore, Massachusetts home, you have some choices to make.

Two popular home heating options are forced-air heat and radiant heat. Both have advantages and disadvantages, so this is a very individual choice. What works for your home may not work for someone else and their home.

Let’s walk through the pros and cons of each.

Forced air

When you have a forced-air heating system, air is heated by a furnace and is pushed out with fans into the duct work, where it is sent into the living spaces in your home to keep it warm. When the air in your home cools below the temperature setting on your thermostat, the air goes through the return air registers back to the furnace, where the heating process starts all over again. Forced-air heating systems can run on heating oil, propane or natural gas.

Here are the pros:

  • If you have existing ductwork, this is the easiest choice.
  • Forced-air heating can be combined with a central air conditioning system to create a simple, cost-effective HVAC system.
  • The warm air being blown from your vents can make a room feel warmer without having to raise the temperature on the thermostat. That’s why we tell you to keep furniture and curtains from blocking the circulation of heated air from the vents.
  • You can use zoned heating with more than one thermostat for more efficient use of your forced-air system.
  • Humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air purifiers can work with forced-air systems to improve the indoor air quality in your home.

And here are the cons:

  • If your home doesn’t have existing ductwork, which is needed for a forced-air system, you’ll have to have it installed.
  • Leaks in your ductwork can cause you to lose as much as 15 percent of your heated (or cooled, if you have central air conditioning) air before it gets to your desired rooms.
  • Dust and other allergens, like animal dander if you have pets, can be circulated through forced-air vents.
  • Vents can limit where and how you place your furniture.

Radiant heat

Radiant heat is how the heat from the heating system is distributed. Instead of heating air, it warms a surface, which is usually a floor. The heat can be generated by a boiler sending heated water through coils, or by electric radiant heating, which involves heat-conducting mats with coils heated by electricity.

In addition to home heating, radiant heating can be used as supplemental heating. One example of that is radiant heating under your bathroom floor, so your feet don’t get cold on unheated tile.

The pros:

  • Because radiant heating is distributed through a surface and not the air, heat loss created by rising heat is eliminated. That can make radiate heating around 15 percent more efficient.
  • You don’t get dust, allergens or mold circulating through ductwork, since there isn’t any.
  • Room temperatures stay consistent.
  • Radiant heating is quieter, since there aren’t blowers, or fans running.
  • You can walk barefoot in comfort.
  • You can arrange your room any way you like, without having to take vents into consideration.

The cons:

  • Installation may take longer to complete than other, more traditional systems.
  • You only get heating. If you want cooling, you’ll have to install separate air conditioning such as ductless mini-splits.
  • Since radiant heating is done below the floor, accessing it for maintenance or repairs is harder and can be more expensive.
  • If you have low ceilings, radiant heating can raise the height of your floor by a half-inch.

Whatever option you choose, the professionals at Frank Lamparelli are here to help you make the right call for your home – as well as install, maintain and repair your home heating system. We can also provide safe and reliable Bioheat or propane delivery to keep it running all year ‘round! Contact us today and we’ll get to work for you.