Radiant heat systems offer an efficient alternative to forced-air systems, as the latter wastes energy by forcing heated air through your living spaces. Radiant systems offer more efficiency and utilize electric mats or hot water tubing in the floor or ceiling to produce radiant warmth, heating people and objects rather than warming air.
Radiation, conduction, and convection are the three primary means by which heat travels from one object to another; each method of transference involves different means, but all transmit energy measured in BTU’s or Joules.
Radiation occurs when something sends energy in the form of waves – either electromagnetic waves (EM) or radio – out into its environment. For instance, hot objects like the sun and toasters emit air this way; radiant heating systems also use this process. It’s how hot things such as stovetops produce warmth. It also makes heating systems feel cozy when you walk into rooms with radiant heating systems installed.
When surfaces radiate heat, their atoms and molecules accelerate, producing what is known as thermal energy – the source of our radiative heat sensed as radiant warmth. All matter, including humans and animals alike, has thermal energy; the more mass an object has, the higher its level of thermal energy will be.
Efficient radiant heating requires that heat be distributed from either the ceiling downward or floor upward to provide consistent temperature and comfort throughout a space. A radiant system works to accomplish these using coils installed into floors, walls, or ceilings according to design and being covered by polymeric sheets that insulate them. Hence, the homeowner remains safe and warm in any given room.
Heat transfer refers to the exchange of thermal energy between physical objects. This occurs through three modes of heat transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction is the most prevalent form of heat transfer and occurs when matter comes into direct contact. An example would be when placing a pan on the burner of a stove: its particles begin to wiggle, rotate and vibrate as they absorb heat from the flame before eventually reaching thermal equilibrium and stabilizing their temperatures at stable levels.
Heating particles that move faster expand their space-occupying capacity, leading them to bump into one another and transfer heat through convection – the most efficient means of heating liquids and the primary method used by radiant heating systems.
Radiant systems use heat from a boiler, furnace, or electric heating coils as its source, with coils installed into your floor, ceiling, or wall, depending on your home’s layout. Polymer sheets are wrapped around these coils to protect their surfaces while their heat transfers directly through insulation pathways to the surfaces in your home.
Radiant heating allows heat to enter rooms through surfaces being heated directly. As such, these types of systems are more energy efficient and most likely recommended by your local HVAC contractor, more so than others that rely on forcing hot or cold air into circulation within your house. Warmer air rises, creating the feeling that your second floor feels much warmer than its basement due to solar heat warming up the ground, warming air enough to rise until it reaches a certain temperature; then cools back down, sinks back into its source, releasing raindrops.
Convection is a type of heat transfer that occurs through fluid movement. This happens because when heated materials, such as solid or liquid ones, become less dense, they rise and move laterally or horizontally until meeting cooler, denser material along the way, creating circular currents. Convection is integral to weather patterns like thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.
Convection occurs in air by moving warm and cool air masses around, which impacts climate and weather conditions. When warm air moves upward, it pushes cool air downward, potentially leading to precipitation or storms. Convection also plays a vital role in creating Earth’s magnetic field.
Convection heating (https://sciencing.com/convection) provides numerous advantages; radiant heating systems add many more. Installation and maintenance are simpler; ventilation requirements can be eliminated altogether, and radiant systems can be used in spaces unsuitable for baseboard or forced-air heating like rooms containing furniture or storage, or industrial applications like production or warehouse facilities.
Convection is a physical process that affects Earth’s geosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere in multiple ways. It also plays an integral part of the Sun’s solar cycle and is pivotal in weather patterns, contributing to earthquakes and volcanoes as natural phenomena.
Radiant heating is a form of electromagnetic wave heating, that when intercepted, can be converted to thermal energy and used to warm objects and people within a room. It can be produced using any method necessary, from electric mats and hot water tubing on floors and ceilings, through radiators, or any combination thereof.
Another advantage is that it can be cooled just like any other system; however, radiant cooling (which you can learn about here) differs significantly in that it does not involve convicting heated air through convection ducts and relies on hydronic systems instead of convection to cool surfaces in contact with an absorbent material such as concrete or tile absorbing energy from hydronic circulation systems and then radiating it back out into the room.
A Few Final Words
Some manufacturers of radiant heating systems claim it is more energy-efficient than forced-air systems because energy loss through heat transfer to air is eliminated. Unfortunately, however, this claim rests upon misapplying the first law of thermodynamics: energy does not change forms within our universe despite changes occurring between forms. This highly complex topic must be addressed appropriately to make it more cost-effective than other heating methods.
Copyright Note: © GreenhouseCenter, since 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Rowland and GreenhouseCenter.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.