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Introduction 

An average homeowner in the US spends around 45% of the total utility bills heating occupied spaces within their home. So, if you’re planning to start a remodeling project or build a new house, heating is one of the most important factors you need to consider. 

In that regard, there are 2 popular options for heating indoor spaces; radiant floor heating and forced-air heating. But, which of these forms of HVAC systems should you choose for your homes? 

If that’s the decision you’re trying to make, worry not. In this article, we’ll look at the benefits and drawbacks of each heating system to help you make the right choice. 

That said, let’s get into it! 

Radiant HVAC design   

Radiant heating refers to a method that is used to distribute heat in an occupied space. So, unlike forced-air systems, radiant heating doesn’t warm indoor air in your home. Instead, these systems heat surfaces like floors, walls, and ceiling panels using boilers. This heat is then circulated through coils that are usually installed in the floor, ceilings, or walls. As a result, people occupying the space will feel the heat consign directly from the surface, rather than hot air blowing on them. 

Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of how a radiant heating system operates, here are some of its benefits and drawbacks. 

Benefits 

  • Energy-efficient 

Radiant heating and cooling design are much more energy-efficient than using forced-air systems. For instance, with systems, you don’t need to heat the entire room. Instead, you can only heat the room you’re using. And if you are using the system to heat several rooms, you can easily control the indoor temperature of each space to ensure more comfort. 

Moreover, the radiant floor heating system reaches the intended temperature but cools down slowly. This eliminates the uncomfortable cold sports that are often created by forced-air HVAC systems in indoor spaces. All these factors make radiant heating and cooling design much more efficient, helping you save money on your utility bills. Better still, this extends the useful lifespan of your home’s HVAC system. 

  • Low cost 

The cost of buying parts of an electric underfloor radiant heating system is a bit pricey, compared to other forms of heating. However, the system offers significant savings through long-term efficiency and lower installation costs. Research shows that a radiant heating system is about 30% more efficient than a forced-air system. Moreover, the realized savings will be higher if you add a smart thermostat to the system since it will allow you to control the zones separately. That way, you can heat the zones only when they’re being used. This will laminate the need to heat the entire house to make 1 or 2 rooms comfortable. 

  • Silent 

Forced air systems generate a lot of noise when they are in use, which can be a nuisance. On the contrary, radiant heating and cooling design doesn’t generate any noise, ensuring silent operation. 

  • Maintenance-free

Another benefit of radiant HVAC design systems is that they don’t need any maintenance. One reason for this is that they don’t have mechanical components that can break down. Also, they don’t have filters that should be replaced regularly, since they don’t move air. 

  • Uniform heating 

Radiant heating systems ensure that heat is distributed uniformly across the entire room. Besides, more than 50% of the generated heat comes from infrared waves and stays at the human activity level. More importantly, the system heats the entire floor, ensuring that the space benefits from the improved balanced heat distribution. 

  • Non-allergic 

Radiant HVAC systems don’t need fans to distribute heat through the rooms. Therefore, they don’t blow dust and other particles that can trigger an allergic reaction among sensitive individuals into the room. 

Drawbacks 

  • High initial cost

The biggest drawback of a radiant heating system is that its initial cost is a bit high. Not to forget that you’ve to remove the existing finished floor material for an existing project. However, despite the high initial cost, this investment will significantly reduce your monthly bills. Besides, with its efficiency, this system can make you eligible for utility provider rebates and federal tax breaks. 

  • Raises the floor height 

As mentioned earlier, radiant heat is distributed through a system incorporated beneath the finished floor. Therefore, these systems will slightly increase the height of the floor. Unless your home has an extremely low ceiling, this may not be an issue since the additional floor height is around 1 inch or less. 

Forced air heating system 

Most forced-air HVAC systems utilize natural gas to generate a flame that heats the air. The hot air is then distributed throughout the building through ductwork. However, there are also electric forced air heating units, such as electric heat pumps, that warm air and blow it into the occupied spaces. Buildings with existing duct systems and central heating units often use this type of HVAC system. 

Benefits 

  • Rapid comfort

Forced air heating systems provide an almost instant response to the heating requirements of your home. This usually occurs in electric heaters since their coils are designed to emit immediate heat. Similarly, the flame of a gas system doesn’t need a warm-up period to produce heat. 

  • Compatible with existing HVAC systems

Most homes across the counter use forced air heaters for their heating needs. In actuality, they are the most popular heating units, thanks to their compatibility with existing HVAC systems. 

  • Improves air quality 

Air circulating through a forced-air heating unit passes through filtration before it’s blown into the living spaces. This helps to purify by getting rid of all airborne contaminants and dust. In addition, some systems condition the air using a dehumidifier or humidifier, based on your home’s geographical location. The same case applies to heat pumps, which supply conditioned air to your home and also act as a heater. 

Drawbacks 

  • Noisy operation 

The whole operation of a forced-air HVAC system generates noise. For instance, the outdoor unit can produce a lot of noise inside the living spaces if it’s too close to the house. Similarly, indoor units have fans that also produce noise. Lastly, the hot air being blown into the room through the ductwork generates noticeable noise as well. 

  • High maintenance 

A forced-air heating unit should be maintained at least twice a year to keep it functioning at peak performance. Unfortunately, the entire unit is mechanical, thus increasing its chances of equipment failure. And as the HVAC ages, the pipework requires to be cleaned and resealed to eliminate leakages. 

  • Allergy issues 

Ducts that distribute air from forced-air HVAC units tend to accumulate bacteria and layers of dust over time. These contaminants are then distributed throughout your living spaces when the units are turned on. Although filtration systems can help to reduce the number of contaminants in the air, they can’t eliminate all of them. 

  • Take up significant space

HVAC systems consist of ductworks that are usually installed through trusses in the ceiling to floor in new construction. But in existing buildings, these ducts are usually installed below the joists, thus taking up valuable headroom. This factor makes it a little difficult to add ductwork for forced air units in remodeling projects. 

Conclusion 

Deciding between radiant heating and forced-air heating when creating an HVAC design for your home can be very stressful. Hopefully, after going through the benefits and drawbacks of each option, you’ve found the right decision for your home’s heating needs. 

If not, contact Innodez Design & Engineering. Our team of HVAC professionals has years of experience serving California homeowners in HVAC system design. We’ll evaluate your home and existing heating system to help you find the best type of heating for your household and budget! 

References:
Mep Design in Los Angeles

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