Is Underfloor Heating Efficient?

If you’ve worked in a warehouse, then you know what cold is, especially on frigid winter mornings. Warehouses are bare bones buildings with concrete floors and extremely high ceilings. In recent years, many cities have renovated these empty buildings into apartments and homes, replacing the old forced-air heating systems with radiant heating. I know–I live in one. As a child, I use to visit my uncle who worked in the very warehouse that I now call home. However, when my uncle worked in the warehouse, at times, it felt like it was 20 degrees colder inside than it was outside.

Underfloor radiant heating systems warm objects in the room, and not the air space. This means that in a room with extremely high ceilings, the air at the ceiling doesn’t have to be 90o F in order for the rest of the room to maintain a comfortable temperature, including the floor. In addition, radiant heat systems save both on energy and on energy bills by reducing the amount of heat-lose.

Another reason for the savings is that, approximately half the energy emitted with a radiant heating system is low temperature radiant heat,
making this very efficient. By providing lower ambient air temperatures, individuals will feel warmer because the heat loss from their body has been reduced. However, many “new” users of radiant heating systems do not fully benefit from the energy savings, because they set their thermostat at the same temperature as they had with their old conventional heating system. When people first begin to use radiant heating, there is an adjustment period.

The amount of savings one will experience will vary depending on how well their home is insulated, their usage patterns, and their personal requirements. Another factor that will affect the amount of savings is the cost of the power source. For instance, the use of oil and natural gas to heat is less efficient than electricity, due to the loss of heat through the venting of the boiler.

In addition, electric radiant heating can be and is usually controlled from room-by-room basis. This means that there is not a central, but instead a thermostat for certain areas, whereas with gas/oil systems there is a central thermostat that controls the entire system.
Therefore, the actual savings between gas, oil, or electric radiant systems depends on the thermal characteristics of the house or building, as well as the age and efficiency of the boiler and radiators, in conjunction with the usage pattern, control systems, and the price for gas, oil, or electricity.

Yet, even with all of these variables, underfloor radiant heating is extremely efficient. I wouldn’t have anything else.

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