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Community and Q&A

Electric Radiant Heaters

Jack Woolfe | Posted in General Questions on

Recently it’s been brought to my attention a type of electric radiant heater, made by Radiant Systems, that mount on a wall up near the ceiling. http://www.radiantsystemsinc.com/inthehome/ I was wondering how well they would work in a superinsulated house in a cold climate?

I understand that a number of years ago electric radiant panels in the ceiling were all the rage, but there were issues with durability, maintenance, and uneven heating in poorly insulated buildings. These heaters should have less issues with durability and maintenance, and purchase and installation costs looks attractive, but I wonder about uneven heating? In a well-insulated house will the walls and furniture heat up so that wherever you are in a room you will feel the same level of comfort?

Does anyone have experience with this particular company, or can recommend any other company with a similar product?

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Replies

  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Jack,
    Yes, these heaters work in a superinsulated building. If your building has low levels of air leakage, and high levels of insulation, heat distribution is less important than in a leaky, poorly insulated building. The better the envelope, the less it matters where you supply the heat.

    If you want to install electric resistance heaters, there are many options, including electric resistance baseboard units, radiant ceiling panels, radiant wall panels, and radiant mats for use under tile floors.

    They all work, they are all relatively cheap to install, and they are all expensive to operate (unless you live in the Pacific Northwest or Manitoba) because electricity is an expensive fuel.

  2. Nick Lehto | | #2

    Jack-
    In a superinsulated house you can use the electric radiant panels in conjunction with a low temp mini split heat pump. Use the heat pump in the main living areas and the electric radiant to balance temperatures in the bedrooms.

  3. Joseph Garten | | #3

    I am also interested in the performance of these radiant units vs. the traditional baseboards and the radiant vs. resistance concept for heating sources for small well insulated and carefully constructed homes.

    As far as heating goes, I still believe that despite or in accordance with all the latest detail/material/labor intensive super insulated wall systems and expensive mechanicals that the best way to build and live “green” in a home is to a build small and simple structure and for the occupants to put an extra layer of clothes on instead of turning up the heat on the latest and greatest “efficient” heat source….but obviously it is important to design and build an adequate heat source.

    Of course appropriate heat sources should be considered by availability and price in a given area. In my area electric runs about 9 cents a KWH and customers can often harvest their own fire wood (sometimes the trees harvested during the site work can heat the home for years). If homeowners are lazy or physically unable to do the work themselves they can buy a cord of cherry, beech and/or oak for about $140 - $180 and that is split delivered and stacked. We are at about 7000 HDD and the local economic demographics mandate a tight budget. So a wood burning heat source and electric baseboards for secondary sources are often utilized in conjunction with passive solar.

    We often run into the issue of furniture placement and clearances with the baseboard units in these small houses. These radiant units would provide a great way to get the heat source away from the furniture and floor space. These units seem like they would be a good answer, although I have never seen or felt one in action. Do these units provide a good comfortable heat source in comparison to traditional baseboards? Is there any truth/science behind this company's assertion that that these systems are more efficient than baseboards or is it just an assertion that one can run a radiant system at a lower temp then resistance and be just as comfortable? Does anyone have any first hand experience with one of these units?

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Joseph,
    Q. "Is there any truth/science behind this company's assertion that that these systems are more efficient than baseboards"

    A. No. A BTU is a BTU. All electric resistance heaters have exactly the same efficiency -- namely 100%.

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