What is Radiant Floor Heat and is it Worth it?

Radiant floor heat is a system of supplying heat from a source in the floor to warm up the room through infrared radiation. The transfer of heat is much like a stovetop dispersing heat to the surface.

AdvantagesWhat is Radiant Floor Heat and is it Worth it?

  • Energy Efficiency: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the greatest advantage of radiant floor heat is its high efficiency. In fact, it is more efficient than baseboard heating and many times, it is also more efficient than forced air heat due to the duct losses.
  • Reduced allergens: Radiant floor heating permeates warmth through the flooring, avoiding the need for air circulation to heat the house. Without air blowing through the ducts of a home, there are less air allergens being pushed into the indoor air. This is greatly beneficial for allergy sufferers, who have asthma or other upper respiratory diseases which are worsened by indoor allergens.


  • Hydronic: Hydronic systems are liquid-based and use minimal electricity, making them a great option for people living off the power grid or in areas where electricity prices are high. The liquid in the system requires a fuel heat source, such as gas or oil boilers, a solar water heater, or a wood heat boiler.
  • Air-heated: Air-heated systems are not as efficient as other types, so they are less commonly used in residential homes. Because air-heated radiant floors require air heating, there is still the requirement to run a conventional furnace to heat the air, reducing the ability to save energy using this method.
  • Electric cables: Electric radiant systems use heating cables, which are built into the floor. There are also systems that use electrical matting mounted on the subfloor, typically installed under tile or another type of floor covering. Because electricity is a higher cost fuel source, electric radiant floors are generally not great for cost savings.
  • Radiant panels: Aluminum wall or ceiling-mounted panels are more costly to install but are considered highly efficient for individual room heating and temperature adjustment. The panels can be heated with any of the above options and have the quickest heat response time. The downside is having heat warm from the direction of the panels, rather than permeating upward throughout the room. With a ceiling mount, users feel warmth on their neck and shoulders, while their lower body and feet are cooler.


  • Heat only: Radiant floor heat is for the sole purpose of heating and does not provide cooling during warm months.
  • Flooring requirements: There are floorings that allow heat to permeate, while others insulate. If you have radiant floor heating, the flooring choices are reduced to specific kinds of ceramic tile or other heat-friendly floor coverings. Using standard carpets, linoleum or wood flooring that insulate can block the heat, making the system less effective.

Overall, radiant floor heating is an excellent option for new construction, home additions, or homeowners looking for an upgrade or change to their current heating system.

For more questions about radiant floor heating, and for other heating and cooling needs, contact us at Pilchuck Heating.