Cold Comforts: A Look At Radiant Heating

First Published in Bison Tracks v.1

Consider the possibility of heating your home and your floor while you design your new dream home. Radiant heating is our favorite heating system here at Open Range, not only because it pairs well with the insulative properties of ICF, but because a radiant heated floor means there’s little need for socks or slippers!

Radiant systems supply heat to a home directly through its floors, the components of which can be built as part of the subfloor (dry installation), or built into the floor itself (wet installation). Because heat rises, it radiates up into the rooms of the house. This also means that homes with radiant systems produce a quieter and more allergy-friendly environment, because you are not dealing with the noise or blown air of traditional HVAC systems.

Infographic by Sarah Getty, Energy Dept. See full graphic at

Types of Radiant

There are two main types of radiant heating systems: electric and hydronic. Electric radiant uses mats and coils to heat the floor, almost like an electric blanket. This type is less cost effective due to the amount of electricity it uses, but it is perfect if only a few rooms are going to be given the radiant treatment. Hydronic radiant on the other hand, pumps heated water from the water heater through tubing installed in the floors. This type is more cost effective, especially when its installed throughout the whole house.

Both types of radiant, while typically more expensive during installation than traditional HVAC systems, are more energy efficient, especially when paired with flooring and insulation with high thermal mass, and energy efficient equipment like the type of water heater being used. Radiant heating can save you at least 15% or more on your heating bill.

See this helpful video by Radiantec that explains how the right equipment can maximize the efficiency of the radiant system in your home.

Now, you may be thinking, “this sounds great, but what about the AC?” Whether you need to have air conditioning installed alongside radiant heating will entirely depend on the environment and type of home you’re building, and your individual needs. If you plan to build with ICF in Colorado for example, you may find that having AC installed is unnecessary, because the temperature inside the home remains thermally consistent.

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