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Radiant Heat vs. Forced Air: Which is Better?

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Step into a home built within the last 20 years in North America and you’ll likely find a forced-air system. It’s the most common HVAC system on the continent and the only one that provides both heat and air conditioning. But is it the best system for your home?

Forced Air Features

Forced air vent in floor

Forced-air systems work by using a furnace or heat pump to heat or cool the air and then disperse it through the house via ductwork and vents. Air filters in the furnace aim to keep air quality high by trapping allergens and other airborne particles. However, they only work if they’re replaced regularly, which many homeowners don’t do. And, though an air filter traps particles at the furnace, it doesn’t stop the system from blowing around dust, pet dander and other allergens that are already resting in other rooms of the home.

Plus, even though new forced-air systems are operating at higher efficiency levels than in the past, they’re still prone to leakage. Small openings in the ductwork cause heated or cooled air to leak out, wasting energy and money. This is perhaps the biggest downfall of forced-air systems.


  • Only HVAC system that heats and cools
  • Air filter improves air quality when replaced regularly


  • Prone to air leakage, reducing efficiency
  • Uneven air distribution can occur
  • Blowing air stirs up allergens within home
  • Noisy operation
Forced air vs. radiant heating illustration

Radiant Heating Features

As a result, many homeowners have turned to radiant floor-heating systems. These systems can be used in tandem with a forced-air system or as the sole heating source. They work by using water or electricity to produce heat that radiates upward through the floor. The heat is then transferred directly to the people and objects in the room.

Generally, hydronic floor-heating systems, which use water and plastic piping to heat the floors, are most popular for whole-house heating. This is mainly because the cost of water is typically lower than the cost of electricity. However, the operating cost depends on the area of the country in which you live, as the cost of electricity varies from state to state and county to county. Depending on where you live, electric floor-heating systems may be a great option for whole-house heating; however, they’re most popular as a supplementary heat source. You can find out if an electric floor-heating system is a practical primary heating source for your home by using WarmlyYours Radiant Heating’s Heat Loss Calculator.

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When used as a supplementary heat source, electric floor-heating systems address another downfall of forced-air systems: uneven heat distribution. Poor vent placement and furniture obstructions can lead to rooms being warmer or cooler than the rest of the house. During the colder months, in-floor heating systems are ideal for rectifying this issue by adding supplemental warmth to the room.

Electric floor-heating systems are also great for remodeling projects because they can be easily added to any room once the flooring is removed. They’re also available in a variety of formats to make installation easy for everyone from a DIYer to a trade professional.

But the biggest upside to radiant heating is its energy efficiency. Because these systems do not use air to distribute heat, they aren’t prone to leakage. You can expect practically all of the heat produced to radiate right up through the floor to heat your room. Plus, you don’t have to worry about stirring up allergens and other particles in the air because the heat is not being blown around — it’s being transferred via direct touch through the flooring. This means not only do you not have to think about air filters, but you can rest assured that you won’t be paying for any wasted heat in your energy bill.


  • TempZone - Cable in floor - Kitchen
    Energy efficient
  • Adds supplemental heat to cooler rooms
  • Does not distribute allergens into room
  • Ideal for remodeling projects
  • Quiet operation


  • Can be expensive for whole-house heating
  • Only provides heat – not air conditioning

For more information about radiant floor heating, visit www.warmlyyours.com or call an expert at 800-875-5285. Within minutes, you can find out which floor-heating system best suits your project, how much it costs, how to install it, and more. 

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