Like all forms of modern convenience, we miss central heating when it’s gone, especially in the winter. We grow accustomed to our creature comforts and learn to rely on them. In the event of a breakdown, West Coast Chief Repair will leap to your aid and ensure normal service is resumed rapidly.
The most common method of distributing heat around the home in North America is forced-air; fans blowing warm air through ducting. Another method of heat transfer is radiation, not the dangerous radiation from nuclear reactions but the transfer of heat by simple proximity to the source.
Radiant heating units appeal to people who are looking for quiet, cost-effective, and cleaner solutions for warming their homes. The method of delivery varies widely with some systems being hidden under floors or in walls and others being more of a feature on display.
Kinds of Radiant Heating
When fluids are used to circulate heat around the system, this is known as hydronic heating. The fluid is often water or sometimes steam, especially in older systems, but can also be oils or other liquids.
Radiators are commonly used to transfer the heat from the source into your rooms. Once they were big lumps of unsightly cast iron but as technology has improved they can more of a design feature. Nostalgia has even pushed some of the more pleasant cast iron designs back into favor for a retro feel.
Another method is to circulate hot water inside the loops of polyethylene or copper tubing. These tubes are installed underneath the floor with a cosmetic covering like tile or hardwood or behind drywall.
Hydronic units have many options for heat generation:
- Integrated Hot Water and Heating Boiler. This option provides heating and home water usage at the same time and can be fueled by gas or electricity. This is the most common solution, especially in Europe.
- Solar Water Radiant Heaters. This uses less energy when used in tandem with a standard boiler. The sun heats a roof panel, heating the liquid that runs through tubes located in a water storage tank. This preheated water helps the boiler to use less energy and time when heating water to the desired temperature.
- Geothermal Heat Pump. This type also uses less energy by preheating the water before it goes to the boiler. The main difference is that it uses the natural heat found beneath the ground instead of solar power.
- Tankless or Combi Boilers. Produce the heat on demand without storing heated water in a separate tank. Units are smaller and used where space is at a premium.
Water is relatively inexpensive and abundant so it is the most common medium to carry the heat around the system but in certain situations, other materials serve the purpose more efficiently. For instance, propylene glycol is often used in colder climates to prevent frozen pipes.
Electric Radiant Heating Units
Electric radiant heating units follow the same principals as hydronic except the heat is generated by heating elements rather than circulating fluids. Underfloor heating is commonly installed by rolling out a mat or mesh that contains zigzagged loops of electric heating coils customized for single rooms such as the bathroom, garages, or kitchen. They are stapled or glued over the subfloor and tiled or boarded over.
Benefits of Radiant Heating Units
Most radiant heating units can be quite costly to design and install. This is especially true for hydronic systems, which require builders to install pipework throughout the house. Electric units are less expensive to install than hydronics because electric coil mats can be easily laid down without too much maneuvering on the builder’s part. However, they cost more to operate than hydronic units which save more in the long run.
Despite these negatives, many homeowners think they’re still worth every ounce of their investment. These units offer great benefits that other conventional heating methods struggle to match:
- Economy. 20% to 50% savings on fuel compared to forced air systems.
- Cleaner and quieter surroundings. Radiant heaters do not blow dust, debris, and allergens in the environment, unlike heaters that depend on blowers for heat dispersion. This makes them ideal for people suffering from airborne allergies.
- Versatility. They can be mounted on heights as high as 60 feet. These units also offer different alternative energy sources.
- Stable and even heating. Radiant heating systems distribute heat slowly, much like what happens when the sun heats your body. Conventional heaters distribute heat through forced air circulation. Warm air rises and loses heat as it hits the ceiling, and then falls to the floor as it cools down. This makes the upper layer of the air hotter compared to the lower areas of the room, wasting up to 30 percent of the heat in the process.
Adjustable. Radiant heaters give you the option to customize the temperature of individual rooms.
- Lesser intrusions. Can be hidden under the floor, wall, or ceiling, so they don’t become an intrusion or ‘eyesore’ in a home.
How We Diagnose Problems and Make Repairs
Radiant Heat Units are durable but not indestructible. There are times when a room might be too cold or hot. Heating cables and mats may be broken, and tubing may develop leaks. Hydronic systems need flushing through periodically and air may accumulate over time and radiators need “bleeding”. Otherwise, major fixes and installations should be left to repair professionals. Incorrectly installed tubes and wires can endanger you and your household and may even violate state and local codes.
West Coast Chief Repair has expert staff familiar with these codes and other safety requirements when installing radiant heaters. They also offer decades of experience in repairing and servicing these units, so you can be sure that your heater is safely and properly installed and cared for at all times.