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What is the Difference Between a Forced Air System and a Radiant Heat System?

The two most common ways to heat a home are through a forced air system or a radiant heat system. Understanding the difference can help you choose a home, upgrade your current system or just learn how to optimize it.
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What is the Difference Between a Forced Air System and a Radiant Heat System?

Home Value | HGDI ADMIN

The two most common ways to heat a home are through a forced air system or a radiant heat system. Understanding the difference can help you choose a home, upgrade your current system or just learn how to optimize it.

Forced Air Systems

Forced air systems, also called forced hot air heating, starts with a furnace and duct work. The duct work consists of large pipes, usually placed in the attic and crawl spaces. The ducts supply the home with warm air through vents in the ceiling, floor and or walls. Some forced air furnaces use natural gas, propane, fuel oil, electricity, wood pellets or other materials as a fuel source, with natural gas being the most common fuel source. 

Radiant Heat Systems

Radiant heat systems come in two common versions. Both are closed loop systems. The first is also called baseboard heating. Tubing containing fluid (usually water) is heated by the furnace and then circulated throughout the home through the pipes or baseboards that are attached to the walls near the floors of a room. The second version uses wires, usually placed in the floor that are heated by electricity. Electric baseboard heat using electricity exclusively rather than a oil or gas furnace as the source of heat. 

Pros and Cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of common house heating systems. 

  • Forced air systems can circulate dust, mold and bacteria throughout the home, along with the warm air. Homeowners need to be vigilant about keeping ductwork clean and filters changed frequently. 
  • Forced air systems can be used to both heat and cool the home using the same ductwork. 
  • Whole home radiant heat systems tend to distribute heat more evenly through the home with fewer hot and cold spots. At the same time, in the floor radiant heat can focus extra heat where there is need, such as in a bathroom or basement floor. 
  • Forced hot air furnaces are generally less expensive to install, easier to operate and maintain, and are more energy efficient. 
  • Radiant heat, including baseboard heat operates almost silently and can be easily zoned. 
  • Since baseboard heating is installed against the walls, it can affect how you place your furniture. 

 

Image Source: Baseboarders via HGDesignIdeas

 

 

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