Radiant Heat vs. Forced Air: What Are The Differences?

This post outlines some of the initial pros and cons of radiant heat and forced air. When comparing the two, it’s easy to see why radiant heat is a viable option for many homeowners when looking at the long term usage as opposed to short-term cost.

When homeowners look at potential heating options for their homes, the choices often come down to two: forced-air or radiant heat. The two are wildly different in the way that they heat a home, the installation, and the general costs and maintenance that come with it. If you’re a homeowner considering new heating options for your new build or remodel, how do you choose?

How Radiant Heat Works Compared to Forced Air

Forced air is a system similar to how it sounds: units use air to heat a space typically through central heating and built-in ductwork. The furnace is centrally located or in a basement and common models burn natural gas to produce the heat that warms the air (there are electric furnaces out there as well).

Radiant heat relies on touch to transfer energy and the heat is produced by electricity, hot water, or air. The heat is transferred by direct touch to people and objects in a room via infrared radiation and is most effective when installed underneath a floor. The heat runs through cables installed in a uniform pattern.

Pros and Cons of Forced Air

These systems promote good circulation by moving air throughout the house and they use an HVAC system that can both heat and cool if air conditioning is installed. The constant circulation can improve air quality if the filter is changed regularly.

The biggest downside is that these systems are prone to significant heat loss. Since the air has to travel through so many ducts and pathways, there’s ample opportunity to lose air along the way.

Pros and Cons of Radiant Heat

Radiant heat uses the science of heat rising to build efficiency. It can add supplemental heat to cover rooms and runs quietly while using substantially less energy. The heating tends to be much more uniform and even with less opportunity for that loss than with forced air.

The upfront cost of radiant heat is higher and it does only provide heat, but over time that cost is mitigated by the energy savings.


If you have more questions about the comparisons between forced air and radiant heat, call the professionals at The Earth Heating today. Portland-area homeowners have trusted the company for more than a decade with their heating needs. Call (503) 788-7777 to learn more.

Share This Post

Related Posts