Heating Showdown: Forced Air vs. Radiant

dog-under-blanketWe’re creeping up on February, and you know what that means! Um, a lot more cold weather and winter scenery to come. Hopefully, your heater is hanging in there and giving you the support you need so far this season. If you are thinking about replacing your heating system once this winter is past, or if you need a new heater for a new property that you’ve got going up, chances are you are looking at both forced air and radiant heating options.

You cannot afford to take any chances when it comes to heating in New Hampshire, so the pros on our staff have some tips to help you determine which system is right for you. Remember, there is no single heater that is going to be ideal for every home or for every homeowner. You need to do some homework, and definitely ask questions as they come up. This is a major investment, and the heating system that you choose really needs to rise to the occasion in this area.

Forced Air vs. Radiant: What’s the Difference?

Forced air heating systems, such as furnaces and heat pumps, heat homes.  So do radiant heaters,  such as in-floor hydronic heating systems. That is where the most obvious similarities end, though. Each system pursues the same end goal, but the ways in which these two styles of heaters go about heating homes differ drastically.

Forced air heaters heat air directly. In a furnace, new heat is generated either by the combustion of a fuel source, or by use of electric resistance. In a heat pump, heat from the air outside is put to use via a refrigerant and compression cycle. Either way, heated air is distributed throughout the house via a system of ductwork.

Radiant heaters, on the other hand, do not heat air directly. Instead, these systems apply heat to surfaces in the home. Typically a boiler will combust fuel and use that energy to heat water, which then circulates throughout hydronic tubing installed beneath the floors. That heat transfers to the floor, and then radiates up and out into the living space. Electric radiant systems are also sometimes used, but the boiler is typically more affordable (despite the actual efficiency rating of electric systems) due to the comparatively high costs of electricity.

Pros and Cons

Furnaces can share the same air ducts that central air conditioning systems use. If you have ducts in place already, then installing a furnace is a pretty straightforward exercise in existing homes. Furnaces also tend to be more affordable to purchase. However, forced air heating can have some negative effects on indoor air quality, and leaky ductwork can lead to considerable inefficiency. Plus, furnaces have more moving parts than boilers. They don’t last as long, and may require more frequent repairs.

Boilers, and radiant heating systems in general, are quite efficient because there is no risk of energy loss via leaky ducts. They also last a long time, and are very reliable. Installing a radiant heating system in an existing property can be tricky, though. It can be done, certainly, but most homeowners would prefer the convenience of having one installed either at the time of construction or during a remodeling project.

Call HB Energy Solutions for all your energy needs. HB Energy Solutions delivers peace of mind.

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