If you are planning on building a new home or doing a remodeling project, a big decision you will need to make is how you will heat the space. Two of the most popular options are radiant floor heating and forced air heating. There are pros and cons to each that you should take into consideration before making your final choice.

Radiant Heating

Radiant heating supplies heat directly to the panels in your home’s walls, ceiling, or floor. This system operates based on the radiant heat transfer principle. It delivers heat directly from a hot surface to the objects and people in the room via infrared heating. In other words, radiant heating is the warmth that you feel from a hot stove even though you’re on the other side of the room.

Pros of Radiant Heating


Many people acclaim radiant heating as the most comfortable type of heat they have ever experienced. In fact, many who use radiant heat never revert to forced air heat if they can control it.

The reason radiant heating is so comfortable is that it harmonizes with the heating curve of the human body. The warmth begins at your feet and gradually works its way up the body, keeping the heat low while providing maximum comfort.

Typically, people prefer their feet to be warmer than their heads. The ideal temperature for the body is in the mid-70s near the feet and the high 60s near the head. This is the type of heating radiant floor heating provides. Many people have remarked that radiant heating feels more comfortable at a lower thermostat setting than forced air heat feels at a higher thermostat setting.

Zone Heating

Radiant heating systems are designed with zones, allowing you to adjust the temperature in different areas of the home based on need. For instance, a living room or basement that is frequently used could be set to 71°F, while an office or den that is rarely used could be set at 60°F. This individualized comfort is the feature homeowners love most about radiant heating. By keeping the spaces that are in use at lower temperatures, the home’s energy use becomes more efficient, minimizing waste and keeping costs to a minimum.

Energy Efficient

A properly installed and designed radiant heating system surpasses a forced air heating system in efficiency. This is particularly evident in hydronic systems, where water, with its ability to transport energy 3,500 times more effectively than air, enhances energy efficiency.

Hydronic radiant floor heating systems achieve even greater efficiency when combined with sustainable heat sources such as solar or geothermal energy. In fact, radiant heating systems powered by solar panels or geothermal sources hold the potential to supply a home with free heat, establishing it as the most energy-efficient form of comfort available.

Improved Air Quality

Radiant heating operates without pumps, blowers, or fans to push air, thereby avoiding the creation of allergens and the circulation of dust, viruses, or odors in the home. Consequently, individuals with serious allergies have reported relief after installing radiant heating systems, particularly when paired with hard surface flooring instead of carpet. Moreover, hydronic radiant floor heating systems eliminate the need for ductwork, granting homeowners greater flexibility in furniture placement without concern for covering vents.


Forced air HVAC systems produce noise, such as the sound of the furnace activating in winter and the ductwork expanding and contracting as hot air travels through the system. In contrast, radiant heating systems operate quietly. Moreover, radiant systems require minimal maintenance, if any. Conversely, traditional HVAC systems require regular maintenance and eventual replacement to ensure proper functionality.

Cons of Radiant Floor Heating

High Initial Cost

While radiant heating systems may require a higher installation cost than traditional methods, homeowners may find that the energy savings over time offset this initial expense.

Limited Applicability to Certain Spaces

Radiant heating systems are most effective in spaces with large open areas and high ceilings, whereas traditional forced air heating methods can be employed in a wider variety of spaces.

Slight Floor Height Increase

Installation of radiant heating requires placement on the subfloor, necessitating a slight elevation of existing flooring by approximately an inch. During a remodel, this may pose challenges if there are swing doors in the room, potentially hindering clearance with the new flooring.

Forced Air Heating

Forced air heating, the traditional HVAC system found in most homes, operates by utilizing a heat source powered by propane, electricity, or natural gas. This heat source elevates the temperature of the air, which is then circulated throughout the home via a robust fan. The heated air is pushed through a duct system, distributing it to various areas of the house. Typically, forced air heating systems consist of a furnace or heat pump, a thermostat for temperature control, and ductwork for dispersing the heated air throughout different parts of the home.

Pros of Forced Air Heating

Energy Efficiency

While not as energy efficient as radiant heating, forced air heating still offers significant energy savings. Some furnaces can achieve up to 95 percent energy efficiency.

Rapid Heating

Forced air systems can heat homes quickly. A furnace can reach operating temperature within minutes and distribute heated air rapidly throughout the home. In comparison, radiant heating systems require more time for the heat source to warm up and then additional time for the heat to gradually radiate through the room.

Ease of Installation

Installing a forced air system is straightforward if there is existing ductwork in the home, either from a previous furnace or air conditioner. The new system can utilize the existing ducts without the need for extensive renovation. In contrast, installing a radiant system may necessitate the removal of flooring and walls.


Forced air heating systems are widely popular in North America due to their simplicity and reliability. A system comprising a furnace, fan, and ductwork has few moving parts, resulting in minimal risk of breakdown when well-maintained.

Improved Indoor Air Quality

Forced air systems incorporate filters that can effectively remove smoke, smog, particulates, and viruses, thus enhancing indoor air quality and making it healthier to breathe.

Cons of Forced Air Heating


Forced air heating systems necessitate regular maintenance, including changing filters every few months and cleaning and inspecting ductwork every few years.

Noise Level

Although not excessively loud, forced air systems tend to be noisier compared to radiant heating systems.

Ductwork Concerns

The ductwork in forced air systems can accumulate dust and mold, potentially spreading contaminants throughout the home. Additionally, ductwork occupies space in floors, walls, and attics. Installing it in existing homes can be costly.

Uneven Heat Distribution

Heat distribution in homes with forced air systems may be uneven, with some rooms heating better or quicker than others. Cold spots may also appear near windows or exterior doors.

Radiant Floors Versus Forced Air Heating

When comparing radiant heat to forced air systems, you must consider several factors before deciding. First, although radiant heating systems entail a high upfront cost, they are significantly more efficient than forced air heating systems. Additionally, they operate more quietly than forced air systems. However, forced air systems provide more immediate comfort in terms of heating and cooling. Ultimately, the decision will depend on your preferences.

Quality HVAC Services in Sacramento, California

At Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation, we are proud to be your HVAC champions. We pride ourselves in our ability to provide world-class service to our customers while being committed to promoting energy efficiency and sustainability in our community. We have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and a host of certificates and awards documenting our commitment to service.

Our services include HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair. We also install whole-house fans, water heaters, ductwork, and electrification. Contact Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation today and see for yourself what sets us apart from the rest.

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