Choosing radiant heat or forced air

| by Kristen Metropoulos

Heating and cooling is the biggest cost of operating your home. So making the right choice can make a difference in utility costs each month – not to mention comfort.

Consult with your building professional on the pros and cons of radiant heat and forced air systems. Forced air is the traditional furnace and air conditioner with a duct system throughout the house. Radiant heat, on the other hand, uses water to heat up the floor or a wall system in a home. Heated floors, especially in a bathroom, are a real treat.

Shilai Xie, product manager with Bosch Thermotechnology, reviewed some of the things to consider in the radiant vs. forced air question.

Radiant Heating

Radiant is always stable and always on, compared to a forced air system that cycles on and off.

There are no drafts from ducts, because there are no ducts. There are no hot or cold spots right near the register. With radiant heating, any place in the room is essentially the same temperature.

Radiant heating can be accomplished with an energy-efficient geothermal or ground source heat pump, boilers, water heaters and similar types of heating sources.

Forced Air Heating

Forced air systems are very fast and very responsive. You can quickly raise or lower the temperature, much faster than a radiant system. They generally cost less to install.

How do you choose?

You can put both systems in a home. You can use forced air cooling and a radiant heating system. If you already have forced-air cooling, or are putting in forced-air cooling, then you can combine the ductwork so you don't have to invest in a complete new hydronic heating system. In new construction it's easy to install a hydronic heating system together with a forced-air cooling system. It can be more difficult to install whole-house hydronic heating in an existing home.

Whether heating or cooling, radiant is always more comfortable because it's more quiet, more stable in terms of temperature and because of there are no pollens or allergens moving around as with the forced air system.

Bosch now offers a hydronic fan coil coupled with a condensing tankless water heater for warm air heating with the option that the homeowner can also install a cooling coil and cooling system. This system offers an alternative for radiant heating and forced air heating and cooling.

It really suits two different needs, whether it's replacement or new construction or retrofit and whether a duct is already installed available or is merely replacing the hydronic heating system.


Topics: Geothermal Heating & Cooling, Heating & Cooling, Radiant Heat


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