Considering a Radiant Heating System

Considering a Radiant Heating System


How can I be sure the decision I make will be for the right reasons?

This can be daunting, especially for the person building a new home who has a multitude of things that will need consideration. In the end, it all has to work together and in many ways, the new energy efficient guide lines being implemented by government bodies due to "Greenhouse Emissions" do help, as they require much higher minimum standards which you can improve on if you wish. The point is, when building, all your options are open, so any bad decisions made now may be stuck with you – so it's better to get it right, first time!

Factors that influence the selection are:

Lifestyle: Are you going to be at home with family during most days or out at business all day? Climate: Are your daytime temperatures cold and overcast or mild and sunny during the winter?

Floor Finish: Will this be textured or a highly polished surface e.g. a light colour polished concrete? Building Design: Will this allow access for retro fitting at a later date?

Property Location: If a rural area, what power supply is available i.e. 3 Phase or Off Peak?

Personal Health: Do any family members suffer allergies or asthmatic problems?

All these questions may seem strange at first, but the answers will dictate to a certain extent whether you will consider:

A conventional air heating system with ducting; or

A radiant "Demand System" such as infra-red carbon film for radiant ceiling heating and radiant floor heating (for wood floors) or cables for underneath tile, marble or stone floors; or A "Heat Storage System" such as cables for in-slab heating

All these systems have advantages and disadvantages and the obvious choice is a system that provides you with the most advantages.

The above systems and their attributes are detailed as follows:

Infra-red Radiant Ceiling Heating

Positives... Offers the quickest response time of all the systems, easiest to retrofit where roof access is available and requires the lowest wattage loading of all the systems. This makes it an ideal partner where renewable solar energy is being considered. Suitable for busy people on the move and where a restricted single phase power supply may only be available (e.g. some rural areas).

Negatives... Loses effect where ceiling height exceeds 4 metres and whilst it warms almost all floor surfaces it won’t warm the surface of a light coloured polished concrete floor (and neither will any air system for that matter) not recommended for use on old lath and plaster ceilings.

Infra-red Radiant Floor Heating

Positives... Carbon film offers quicker response under (floating and batten fixed) wooden floors than cables due to its large even spread of heat source and offers a similar performance under carpets with underlay.

Negatives... Cannot be glued under direct stick wood flooring or tiles, unless the tiles are glued to 6mm ply overlaying the carbon film.

Underfloor Heating

Positives... Ultra Thin Cables provide a quicker response than cables bedded lower down in the screed. They also offer the renovator a means of applying a heating system without the pain of raising skirting boards and doors due to raising the floor level. No screed required, simply taped in place ready for tiling). Ceramic tiles will draw the heat.

Negatives... Sluggish heat response under wood and need to be in a glue or shallow screed to draw the heat across.

in-slab Heating

Positives... Lowest capital cost, easy to install and of course low cost operation with an "off peak power" tariff. Any type of wood or other floor covering can be safely laid on the slab. This system creates a balanced heat, throughout the building due to the thermal mass. Zoning allows you to shut down unused areas.

Negatives... Very slow response time, but that is because it’s a storage system. Wattage loadings are higher. Not suitable for demand response or burst heating. Cannot be retro fitted to existing house.


Remember, whilst some of these systems may be more expensive to install, they more than compensate due to their zero maintenance and will be operational when many of us are in the nursing home. The biggest consideration though, is they are all allergen free and healthy enabling their occupants to possibly live longer!!!! Is that worth consideration?