Radiant HeatThere are three types of heating. (1) Conduction transfers heat directly from one object to another, like heating a pot on the stove. (2) Convection spreads heat by circulating air or water around a heat source. (3) Radiant heating, on the other hand, spreads warmth through photons, which don’t require a medium such as air or metal. Wood stoves and fireplaces are the most familiar type of radiant heaters, but every object with a temperature above absolute zero gives off radiant heat. Radiant heat from the sun is what warms and powers the Earth.

Using Radiant Heat to Warm Your Home

There’s nothing nicer than cozying up in front of a fireplace on a cold winter night. But while they’re beautiful to look at, fireplaces are an inefficient way to warm a room. Generally, you have to sit close to feel its effects. By contrast, it doesn’t matter where you sit with modern radiant heating systems (also known as hydronic heating systems). They’re powerful enough to heat the whole house.

Unlike traditional furnaces, which blow warm air through floor and ceiling vents, radiant heat systems pump hot water instead. The water is heated in a boiler and then dispersed through your home using pipes in the floor. Heat radiates up, creating a warm, pleasant atmosphere throughout your home.

Advantages of Radiant Heat

Because water can absorb four times as much heat as air, radiant heating systems warm your home faster with less energy. Water loses less heat moving under your floor than air does moving through your ducts. Air leaks are a smaller concern as well. While drafts suck heat out of your home, radiant heat is absorbed by everything and everyone in the room. Your body, clothes, and furniture become warm to the touch because radiant heat warms you, not the air.

Radiant heating systems also concentrate heat along the floor, rather than the ceiling. You can feel it in your toes as you walk around. It means that even if the room is the same temperature as one heated by a furnace, it feels warmer because the energy is closer to where you’re working and playing.

Radiant heating systems are quieter as well. Heated water runs silently beneath your feet so that even when it’s going full blast, you hardly know it’s on. It doesn’t blow dust, dander, or allergens around your home either ‒ a great relief for people suffering from sinus or respiratory problems. And because its piping is laid down evenly under your floor, radiant heat creates uniform warmth, which furnaces can’t. No matter how well designed, the area around the vents will always be warmer than areas far away from them.


Radiant heat is cheap to run but expensive to install. Retrofitting an existing building means floors have to be torn up, which is not only costly but disruptive. Water leaks are also a major concern. Modern radiant heating systems use PEX tubing, which is inexpensive and less prone to leaking than the older, copper piping first used in the 1940s. But while water damage is unlikely, if it does occur, it can be difficult and time-consuming to repair.

Covering Your Radiant Heating System

Radiant and hydronic heaters can last for years if properly installed and maintained. However, wear and tear leads to problems as they age. Fixing old systems can be expensive, but not for Agway customers. They’re covered by our EnergyGuardTM program as soon as they join. It protects their  heating and cooling systems. There are no deductibles or service fees. Just reliable coverage 24/7. Sign up today!