Radiant Heating Explained: History and Benefits
Radiant heating is a method of conducting heat from hot to cold area by method of radiation. The most common application of the method in residential and commercial structures consists of Floor Radiant Heating. However, the method is also used for heating walls and ceilings, as well as outside areas (snow melt).
While the technology has been used in the United States for only 70 years, it is anything but new. Archeological discoveries show that Romans used radiant heat in bathhouses over 2000 years ago. The floor of the bathhouse would be build on top of special stands, leaving space underneath. Hot air from the furnace was circulated under the floor and used to warm it up. Such structure was very labor intensive and expensive to build and maintain, making it beyond reach for most citizens of ancient Rome and its territories.
Use of actual pipes to transport hot water started in Europe about one hundred years ago. Since the 1960’s PEX has become the material of choice for radiant heating systems.
In the US, radiant heating with PEX tubing is slowly but steadily acquiring a reputation for being not only economical, but also more comfortable and quieter than other heating systems. Aside from the obvious distinctions, such as materials and installation, the main conceptual difference between radiant heating and other systems is that its objective is to heat the surface area, not the air.
An average floor (especially in cold seasons) is significantly cooler than our body temperature, resulting in heat radiating from our bodies to the floor. Radiant heating does not only significantly reduce heat loss from our bodies by keeping the floor surface area warmer, but also uses the warm surface to radiate the heat to our bodies, making it warmer.
Unlike forced air systems or systems using baseboards, radiant heating is hidden from view and does not interfere with home décor and furnishing. Also, radiant heating allows for different temperatures in different areas of the house. The system is quiet and does not contribute to the distribution of dust, dirt and viruses, unlike many central heating systems.
Radiant heating is known to reduce overall energy consumption, resulting in savings for the homeowner. There are a few reasons for these savings: the system is operated at lower temperatures, requiring less energy to heat it up. Also, zone control allows heating of only those areas that are needed and not the whole house.