An excerpt from Chronogram

Radiant Heating

The Heat is On

Richard Cavanagh, owner of Advanced Comfort Systems, a Kingston-based heating and cooling company that specializes in radiant heat, agreed that radiant heat is more efficient and says its efficiency can offset the upfront installation cost. “If you’re installing a baseboard system that costs $10,000, you’re looking at about $15,000 for a radiant system, it’s about 50 percent more than a traditional heating system,” he says. “It’s an initial cost but there is a payback to this because of the efficiency. If you’re spending $3,000 a year in fuel and I can save you 30 percent of that, this system will start to pay for itself over time.”

For efficiency Cavanagh advises pairing radiant heating systems with condensing boilers which are significantly more efficient than older types of boilers. “When you couple a radiant heating system with a condensing boiler that’s the key to an extremely efficient and comfortable home,” Cavanagh says.

Beyond efficiency there’s also strong health advantages to radiant heat.

Radiant heating tubing before concrete
Radiant heating tubing before concrete

“Being in the heating business for about 20 years now I’ve removed a lot of old ductwork,” Cavanagh says. “If you actually see what’s going on inside them it’s a horror story; we’re talking dust balls and dead mice carcasses. It’s especially tough for people with allergies. I lived in a an apartment building in Kingston and every year when they turned that heating system on I couldn’t breathe for the next week, because what’s happening is you’re essentially just breathing in all the dirt that was in the ductwork from the year before. Radiant is a much cleaner heat and it doesn’t produce dust. ”

When a homeowner is building a new house there are several radiant heating installation options.

“It can be installed into the concrete, it can be installed underneath the flooring of the home, or it can be installed on top of the flooring. Installing it on top of the floor is the best way because you’re literally stepping right on it,” he says. “There’s a product out thereā€”it’s prefabricated plywood panels with metal backing and you screw it down to the top of the floor. Then you can put any surface over these panels you want such as tile, carpet, or hardwood flooring.”

Though radiant heat has become more popular in recent years Cavanagh says his installations peaked before the recession in 2008, likely because there are less new homes being built now. However, more and more people are retrofitting radiant systems to their existing homes. If you have a hot water boiler in your home already, a radiant heating system can sometimes be retrofitted with relative ease. If you don’t have a boiler, Cavanagh advises looking into an electric radiant heating system. “There’s several products on the market but you have to watch which ones you choose because some just do what’s called floor warming, they’ll just warm your floor they don’t’ bring the room up to 70 degrees, they’re made to be used in conjunction with a forced hot air system.”

The experts advised those interested in installing radiant heat to do their homework and make sure to work with a reputable company. Cavanagh says that once people install a radiant heating system they never look back. “Not only do they love the comfort but they’re saving themselves money and that’s the important part in today’s economy,” he says. “There is an upfront cost but there’s an absolute payback, it may take eight years but after that you’re going to get a 30 percent return on your investment and that’s something that the stock market will never give you.”