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The Great Debate: Forced-Air Heating vs Radiant Heating

infloor-heatingIn the world of HVAC, there are two methods of heating: radiant heat and forced-air.

Forced-air has dominated the country for a few decades now. You know them personally as furnaces, heat pumps, and ductless mini-splits.

On the other side, you have radiant heat. This type of heating is used in boilers and the aptly named radiant heating systems.

If you’re in the market for a new heater in Deptford Township and have been considering new options, keep reading. We’ll describe the differences between the two.

Forced-Air Heating

If you’ve never used a boiler, then you’re most likely using a forced-air heater. These heaters have become the easiest and least expensive to install. Natural gas-fueled furnaces are perhaps the most popular example, but heat pumps are also rising in favor.

These systems heat your home by heating the air itself. That hot air is then blown into your rooms through a duct system or directly through the air handler.


Fast to heat: Forced-air heating, in comparison to radiant heating, is much faster. It can also be felt more intensely, but that doesn’t always mean it’s effective or thorough.

More efficient Electric Heaters: In terms of using electricity as a fuel source, heat pumps are the most efficient on the market and capable of outperforming electric in-floor radiant heating systems.

Easier installation: Even the most difficult forced-air system has an easier installation than a boiler or radiant heating system.


Prone to uneven heating: Air doesn’t always distribute evenly through a room, leaving some rooms feeling a bit colder than the rest.

Indoor air quality reduced: The stream of air blowing through the room can cause dust and allergens to circulate.

Noisier: As forced-air heaters go through their cycles, you can expect to hear the constant sound of rushing air.

Radiant Heating

It can be confusing to talk about these systems because their method of heating shares the same name as the heating system itself. “Radiant heat” is the phenomenon of heat transfer via electromagnetic waves. In other words, it’s the same kind of heat you feel coming from a campfire or from a bowl of hot soup.

Radiant heating systems use a set of tubes or cables to generate radiant heat, either with electricity or heated water. On the other hand, boilers also take advantage of radiant heat through the use of metal radiators.


Comfortable, even heating: Since radiant heat does not rely on the flow of air, it does a better job of evenly heating spaces.

Better for air quality: Likewise, the lack of airflow means that contaminants are not disturbed.

Less maintenance: Thanks to less moving parts, radiant heating systems tend to need less maintenance.


Installation can be expensive: Radiant heating systems need to be installed under the floors or in the walls, requiring significant remodeling. Boiler installation is also more complex.

Slower to heat: While radiant heating is able to heat more evenly, it takes more time for it to thoroughly heat a room.

Radiators: For those using radiant heat through a boiler, they’ll have to install large, metal radiators or baseboard heaters in every room.

Shopping for a new heater? We can help you decide which one works best for your home. Contact SPS Mechanical Inc. today to request an estimate.

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