Q – I prefer the efficiency and comfort (for my allergies) of radiant heat, but I don’t want to tear up the floors to add it. I am considering electric ceiling or wall radiant panels, but will they distribute the heat effectively?-Ed J.
A – Radiant heat is one of the most comfortable and efficient methods of heating a home. Just like the sun’s rays feel warm, radiant heating panels heat your body and objects instead of just the air. This allows you to keep your room temperature cooler, without sacrificing comfort, and reduce energy loss through walls and windows.
It is a common misconception that heat always flows upward.
Radiant heat energy, just like light from a light bulb, flows in all directions. Radiant heat is often confused with heated air, which naturally flows upward because it is less dense than cooler air.
There are many simple do-it-yourself radiant heating methods, other than warm floor systems, that require little remodeling work. Often sold as kits, these are ideal for heating just one chilly room in an existing home or for an entire new home. There are even small plug-in radiant units designed specifically to fit under a table or desk (for the office).
In addition to lower utility bills and greater comfort, you will notice fewer dust mite and mold allergy problems. I am highly allergic and I use a quartz radiant heater and a radiant wall picture heater in my study. By eliminating the blowing air from a forced-air system, radiant heat reduces airborne allergens.
Other key advantages of radiant heat are that it is quiet and maintenance-free. Since these systems heat objects and people in a room, not just the air, the room temperature stays fairly steady. Hot (near a register) or cold spots in a room are minimized.
Most people end up mixing and matching different radiant methods for different rooms. Since the heating system in each room is independent, you can vary each room’s temperature at different times of the day (called zoning). This yields major savings.
An excellent choice for almost any room is electric radiant ceiling panels. These are often available as large attractive panels that can be painted. Smaller 2- and 4-foot panels are also available to fit standard suspended-ceiling T-bar grids.
Another simple-to-install option (Calorique) is a thin polyester plastic film with carbon heating strips sandwiched in it. This film is sized to fit perfectly in ceiling joist spacing. You just staple it up under the ceiling joists and attach standard dry wall. Several companies also make heating cable that is attached to spacers behind the dry wall.
Attractive cove radiant heaters (Radiant Heater Corp. and Radiant Systems) are the easiest to add to a room. These are long, narrow heaters that are mounted on the wall by the ceiling. In this position, one unit radiates heat to an entire room. These are only several inches wide and are finished in many colors or wood graining.
If you have a small room or only need to heat a small area, use a quartz radiant heater. These produce heat almost instantly with no sound or annoying drafts. Some models (Marvin) also have small fans to help heat a larger area. Other designs oscillate to cover a larger area.