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Radiant Heating: Providing Warmth From the Ground Up


In the mild South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz winters, it can be difficult to get just the right amount of warmth with a forced-air heating system. With radiant heating, you'll enjoy more consistent, even temperatures throughout your home and see lower energy bills.


Radiant floor heating consists of a system of tubes or wires under the floor that distribute heat. Unlike forced-air (ducted) systems, radiant systems heat people and objects, not just the air, to provide an enveloping warmth. Two types of systems are commonly installed:

  • Hot water (hydronic) - These use tubes under the floor to circulate hot water from a boiler.
  • Electric - These use electrically heated loose cables or mats under the floor.

Radiant floors perform best with floor coverings that conduct heat well, such as tile, stone or laminate flooring. Carpet reduces the system's efficiency, while vinyl and natural wood can be damaged by the heat.


Radiant flooring directly heats you and your furnishings, so it keeps you more comfortable than a forced-air system. It doesn't use ducts, so it doesn't suffer duct-related energy loss. These factors make hydronic radiant floors in particular more energy efficient than forced-air systems.

Because they don't blow air around, they don't circulate dust, mold spores, and other contaminants, which is ideal if you have allergies or asthma.

On the downside, a hydronic radiant flooring system requires a boiler. If you don't already have one, installing one will add to your upfront expenses. Although an electric radiant floor doesn't require a boiler, it's less energy efficient than a hydronic system and usually only practical for heating a single room.

Although a radiant flooring system can be retrofit into an existing building, this requires tearing out the floor. Whether installed in a new construction or as a retrofit, a radiant floor typically costs more upfront than a conventional forced-air system, but it can pay you back with lower energy bills and greater comfort.

Visit our website for in-depth information on most HVAC topics, or just give us a call at (408) 868-5500.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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