Forced Air or Radiant Heat – Which Is Better?

Heating in winter is usually a major expense. That’s why it’s important to know which system will be best for your home. And many homeowners debate between getting a forced air or radiant heat furnace. Below we provide some information and guidance that will help you make the decision.

Forced Air Heating Features

forced air or radiant heat

Forced air heaters provide heating with ducts and blowers. A furnace or a heat pump inside the unit heats the air and then dispenses it through the room via ductwork and vents. Forced air furnaces are also equipped with an air filter, which traps allergens and other airborne particles. However, you will need to mindful to regularly clean the ductwork.

Radiant Heating Features

forced air vs radiant heating

These systems work by heating up water to produce heat, which then radiates upward through the floor. And the difference of the heating method between forced air and radiant heating is that while forced air systems heat the air, radiant heating warms up the surfaces of your home.

Forced Air vs Radiant Heat

Heat Consistency

Forced air heating usually has less consistent heat around the home. Since the air circulates, so it can be hotter near the floor before it circulates to the top of the room. You’ll often notice hot and cold spots around the house. Radiant heat systems, on the other hand, heat surfaces, so they will have a constant supply of warmth that is maintained at the same temperature.


When you want to heat your house, you turn on the furnace and you’d like to instantly be warm. This is not the case, however, with forced air furnaces. A forced air system will start blowing hot air using maximum capacity until the desired temperature is reached. And they’re often subject to heat loss.

Radiant heaters are more efficient and heat quickly and steadily, providing a continuous level of warmth. Since there’s no ducts or long pathways for the heat to travel, there’s almost no heat loss. And while with forced air if you turn off the unit, the temperature will quickly drop, with radiant heating, the surfaces will continue emitting heating as the temperature will slowly go down. Radiant heaters lose up to 25 percent less heat this way.

Comfort Level

The advantage of radiant heat is that provides stable and consistent temperature throughout the entire home. With forced air, though, some rooms can be colder, while others hotter. And as we’ve mentioned above, there can be hot and cold spots.

Energy Savings

Since forced air furnaces usually have some heat loss, especially if your home is poorly insulated, your heating bills will go much higher. Radiant heat is not so dependent on home’s insulation and will consistently provide warmth without heat loss.

Air Filtration

Forced air furnaces come with air filters to trap particles in the air. However, for them to work properly, they should be regularly replaced. Moreover, although they trap particles, they also stir up the dust, pet dander, and other allergens.

Radiant heaters, on the other hand, don’t blow around the heat, so you don’t need to worry about allergens and other particles getting stirred up in the air.  However, they’re also designed to be beneficial for people with allergies or asthma, as the boiler in the furnace triggers dust, pollen, and smoke out of the air.

Installation and Cost

This is probably the only disadvantage of radiant heating. Their cost is usually higher compared to forced air furnaces.

To install forced air heating, you’ll need to run through the house duct work, vents, registers, and controls. For the radiant heat system installation, you’ll need to install tubes as a subfloor, which will then carry hot water for heating.

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