Radiators Vs. Forced Air: The Great Heating Debate (2023)

  • Lifestyle
  • October 10, 2018

Your energy bill isn’t cheap. If you’re moving into your first home and you’ve been living in apartments where energy and water were included in your rent, your first winter electricity bills can come as a big surprise. Your average energy bill without air conditioning or heat could be as little as $30-$50 a month, going into lights, TV, and electronics.Once you addair conditioning systemor heating, the costs quickly increase.

Depending on how your HVAC system is set up, you may pay both an electricity bill and a gas bill. Gas is often used for heating as it can be cheaper than electricity. Electric heating can quickly become expensive, but you often see it in older homes and apartments. All the more reason to update your HVAC system and keep out the cold in the winter months. The finest option you have is Carrier if you need a new HVAC system! For all aftercare we recommend visiting this Carrier manuals download page, it is the largest resource of user guides and manuals.

Your heating costs will depend on what kind of heating you have:

Radiator Heating: Radiator-based heating is old and not particularly effective. It can cost you over $300 a month to heat a house with radiator heating. If you have electric-powered radiators, you may want to call in an HVAC technician and make the switch to gas or forced-air heating.

Gas or Forced Air: Forced air heating relies on ducts and vents transferring heat produced in a furnace via air. It’s a more modern type of heating common in North America, and it costs around $100 a month to heat a house, although these rates are highly dependent on where you live, as different states and provinces often have different energy costs.

Making the switch from radiators to forced air will require the help of a professional HVAC technician to install a furnace, ducts, and vents. It can be quite the undertaking, but you should save considerably on your monthly heating bills. While some argue that steam or hot water radiators are actually more efficient than forced air, the biggest problem with radiators is spreading heat to those areas that experience greatest heat loss, such as windows and doors. If you’ve ever stood by the window in the middle of winter in a house with radiator heating, you can feel how cold it is by the sill.

In some cases, switching to forced air will make the house more comfortable, though it may also be a smart idea to improve insulation in your home or upgrade your windows. Of course, if you’re making the move to forced air, you’ll be relying on a furnace which requires the knowledge of a professional. Talk to an HVAC technician before you wade into the radiator vs. forced air debate. If you’re having issues, professionals can also help you decide if you should repair your furnace instead of replacing it. Forced air is more expensive to install and buy at first but can save you money in the long run. In some cases, radiators can be cost effective, but without additional home renovations such as new windows and insulation, they can’t guarantee the kind of comfortable temperatures that forced air is known for. When you make the switch, you will have to switch from a boiler to a furnace.

(Video) Is Steam Heat a Dealbreaker? | Open House | Ask This Old House

Ask around when it comes to HVAC renovations. Make sure you get several quotes and opinions from different technicians and companies before you decide which way to go. Always get a professional opinion before you invest in home renovations. If you are looking for a newly constructed home that could save you from renovations, you can connect with The Maloney Team.

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Carolyn Scott-Hamilton

The Healthy Voyager, aka Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, is the creator and host of The Healthy Voyager web series, site, and overall brand. An award winning healthy, special diet and green living and travel expert, holistic nutritionist, plant based vegan chef, best-selling cookbook author, media spokesperson, sought after speaker, consultant and television personality, Carolyn Scott-Hamilton is a respected figure in the world of healthy lifestyle and travel as well as special diet cooking and nutrition. The Healthy Voyager aims to help people live well, one veggie at a time!

9 comments
  1. Radiant heating is more efficient than forced air….

    (Video) How to Convert Old Radiators into Multi-Zone Hydronic Heat | This Old House
  2. In the UK even in brand new houses, radiator heating is the standard, because it is better for keeping places warm. Water is more efficient than air at transferring heat from a boiler, you don’t have a house full of ducts that can transmit drafts, and the heat doesn’t disappear as soon as you switch the system off. Ducted HVAC can blow dust and spores around a house too.

    Forced air systems come into their own more for cooling than heating because you can connect a full AC system to them and have cool air driven around the house – that’s why they’re more common in the US.

    Also not to mention, you can (and most UK houses do) have gas fired boiler for radiator systems, with an electric heater as a backup which most people never use.

  3. Much of the information in this article is misleading and/or incorrect. I have been a professional HVAC system engineer for 40 years in the Boston area. Radiant heat is typically more cost efficient than forced air, using the same energy source (Natural gas, heating oil, etc.).

    (Video) This is Why Heat Pumps May NOT Be The Future

    Forced air also has the disadvantage of circulating dust and pathogens through the air, leading to more illness and discomfort- not to mention it dries the air more than radiators and can make your skin itch in the winter.

    I recommend my clients who can afford it go for radiant heat in new construction. It is healthier than forced air, more comfortable, and quieter, though the installation costs are significantly higher.

  4. Both system have cons and pros.
    Forced air provides you heating as well as cooling in summer, whereas radiators only provide you heating.
    Due to the pandemic, many people are now concerned about indoor air quality.
    In the forced-air system, your house air circulates throughout the house which may easily cause air contamination for his reason radiators are a better solution.
    We are an HVAC company providing complete heating & cooling solution in Toronto and GTA. we not only offer complete heating & cooling services but also offer complete indoor air quality solutions.

  5. Radiant heat is the best, hands down. Who wants a noisy, windy, dust generator? When I designed my heating system, I created eight separate zones, each controlled by modern thermostats. Each zone may be closed off from the others. Most zones are just warm enough to stay above dew point, making them very inexpensive. Only four rooms, Zone #1, are heat controlled for our regular use. I will say it again, radiant heat is the best!

  6. @ Steve:
    Except I’m pretty sure minisplits can eliminate forced-air’s primary advantage and can be added to a radiator loop, eliminating the need for ductwork entirely.

    (Video) How to Maintain a Steam Radiator | This Old House

  7. Also, depending on the climate, water for the radiator loop can be heated either by a geothermal or air-source heat pump, which can also provide hot water for bathing/washing clothes and dishes/etc, cutting out gas entirely and still saving a bundle over resistive heat for space and water heating.

  8. Modernity provides you with any amenities for your comfortable life. No modern repair is complete without a battery or a similar tool, because it is part of the comfort. And so that nothing disturbs your comfort, do not forget about timely prevention, if you have missed the moment and it’s time to replace it – they will help you here https://excelsiortwincities.com/heating/furnace-replacement-and-installation/

FAQs

Do radiators work better than forced air? ›

PRO: Compared to forced air, radiator heating may be more humid and comfortable because it doesn't remove moisture from the air by blowing it over an open flame. Many furnaces require an additional appliance, a humidifier, to replace the moisture the furnace removes. CON: Are slower to react to thermostat changes.

Is warm air heating better than radiators? ›

Warm air heating systems don't need a hot water distribution system (pipes and radiators), so you are less at risk of household plumbing problems. The systems can also be good for small properties because you save space in your rooms by not having radiators or wall mounted heaters.

Are radiators more efficient than central heating? ›

Designer electric radiators heat your room as efficiently as your central heating system does. Their main advantage is that they have no moving parts, which means there's less to go wrong and therefore they will need less maintenance – no bleeding, no balancing, and no flushing.

How efficient are radiators for heating a house? ›

A gas central heating radiator system can never be 100% efficient because the whole system uses pipes to pump the hot water around your home. Even brand new boilers are only able to be about 92% efficient, whereas electric radiators will turn 1 kWh of electricity into 1 unit of heat, making them 100% efficient.

What is the best heat source for a home? ›

In general, furnaces are the most efficient of the heating systems, especially if you have natural gas. They work by heating air with a component called a heat exchanger and pushing it into the home through a duct system, using a fan (often referred to as a blower).

What are the pros and cons of radiator heat? ›

Radiator System Pros and Cons
AdvantagesDisadvantages
Not a dry heat.Larger, bulkier and take up more space.
Easy to switch certain radiators off, to heat only the necessary rooms.Radiator covers stop full potential and are not cost-efficient.
More common, and easier to replace.Can be a messy job to clean out a radiator.
4 more rows
31 Mar 2022

Is warm air heating more expensive than radiators? ›

Warm air systems are renowned for their quiet operation so your home or business will not be disturbed by unwelcome noises. Modern warm air heating system are very energy efficient with running costs as much as 20% lower than some other types of heating system.

Can you change warm air heating to radiators? ›

If you want to replace your warm air heating system, a popular option is a gas-fired boiler and water-filled radiators.

Is forced air heating good? ›

For the efficiency of the heating that you're getting, forced air heating is highly effective while maintaining a reasonable price. Because the installation of forced air heating tends to be easier than the other alternatives, this also lowers the overall price.

Which is better air conditioning or radiators? ›

Air conditioning units heat up much more quickly than heating systems with radiators and boilers which means less energy is wasted getting them up to temperature before they start heating the rooms. Sending heated water long distances through pipes also results in significant heat loss and wasted energy.

Do radiators make the air dry? ›

The fact is, boiler heat systems, either with hot water radiators or steam radiators, do not provide any more humidity than a forced-air system – at least they aren't supposed to. A properly working boiler and radiator heating system simply heat – it does not humidify.

What is the most efficient radiator? ›

Aluminium Radiators - The Kings of Efficiency

Aluminium is an excellent conductor of heat which means, when used as a radiator material, it's heats up to the desired room temperature very quickly. This means that less energy is used in bringing the material up to temperature when compared with other radiator metals.

How long do radiators last in the house? ›

Central heating engineers recommend that the average lifespan of a radiator is between 8-12 years. This could mean that any radiators in your home that are over 10 years old have stopped working efficiently are costing you more for a poorly heated household.

How much does it cost to heat a home with radiators? ›

Costs below are for radiators rated up to roughly 10,000 BTUs and below. The room size you heat impacts the unit size and cost.
...
Radiator Cost by Heat Source.
Heat SourceAverage Costs (Unit Only)
Hot Water$100 - $1,000
Electric$200 - $1,500
Steam$300 - $2,500
28 Feb 2022

Should I remove radiators? ›

Removing too many radiators can cause the pressure to get too high, which could cause damage to the system. In general, removing one or two radiators isn't going to put the system under significant stress. But the job is probably best left to a professional if you need several radiators removed in your home.

What is the cheapest way to heat your home in 2022? ›

Gas boiler

It's not as cost-effective without solar panels, but a gas boiler is still the cheapest way to heat your home – though that's set to change soon, with the cost of gas rising more than twice as quickly as electricity.

What is the best heat source for 2022? ›

It also has an automatic 12-hour shutoff timer.
  • Envi 120v Plug-in Electric Panel Wall Heater. ...
  • Lasko Bladeless 1500-Watt Electric Ceramic Oscillating Space Heater. ...
  • Vornado AVH10 Vortex Heater. ...
  • Dreo Space Heater. ...
  • Dyson Pure Hot+Cool HP04 Fan. ...
  • Lasko Ceramic Portable Oscillating Space Heater.
7 Oct 2022

What's the best heat source in 2022? ›

The Best House Heating System for You in 2022
  • Types of House Heating Systems. ...
  • Furnaces & Boilers Based Heating Systems. ...
  • Reversible Heat Pumps – Ducted Heating Systems. ...
  • Ductless Heat Pumps. ...
  • Ground Source Heat Pumps. ...
  • Space Heaters- Direct Heating. ...
  • Fireplaces. ...
  • Radiant Floor Heating.

Are radiators healthy? ›

Central heating radiators create the ideal conditions for dust mites and mould spores plus microbiological infections to flourish resulting in a higher level of allergens, that is then circulated via heat convection, plus contributes to poorer indoor air quality that we breathe in.

Is heating with radiators efficient? ›

Radiators can be an efficient, cost-saving way of heating your house. Their delivery pipes are a heat source, spreading the warmth out over a long, narrow area. The benefit of any radiator, whether it uses hot water or steam, is its efficiency.

Does steam heat cause mold? ›

How does mold develop? Mold always arises from moisture in the building. Humidity, sweating and steam from the bathroom or the kitchen increase the humidity. It only takes 24-48 hours for mold spores to develop, so if the humidity rises above 60-65% then you might start seeing the signs within 24 hours.

Is warm air heating eco friendly? ›

Energy-efficiency – Most warm air heating systems use natural sources in order to provide heating, making them renewable and eco-friendly. Using warm air heating systems can help to reduce your carbon footprint by approximately 60%.

Is there asbestos in warm air heating? ›

warm air heating system or storage heater contains asbestos insulation, and what to do about it. What should you do with asbestos waste? Asbestos cement sheets should not be broken up and need to be sealed in heavy-duty polythene sheets or bags that are double wrapped.

How much is a new forced air heating system? ›

The average cost for a new HVAC system is $3,250 to $12,550, which includes equipment and labor fees for the installation of a central AC unit and gas furnace. The chosen HVAC brand, necessary ductwork repair, and your location will influence the project cost.

Is warm air heating noisy? ›

Warm air systems are renowned for their quiet operation so your home won't be disturbed by unwelcome noises. These systems are very energy efficient with running costs as much as 18% lower than some other types of heating system.

How much does it cost to replace a warm air heater? ›

Furnace Replacement Costs

A natural gas furnace costs on average $2,200 to $7,150 to replace. An electric furnace prices out to be more affordable and ranges between $1,000 to $5,500 to install.

Is ducted heating good? ›

Modern ducted heaters are much more energy efficient than older models, giving a more pleasing consistent temperature, better control of your fan speed, and no need for a pilot light. Ducted heating is also a major investment in your home and one of the most efficient forms of heating.

What's the cheapest way to heat a house? ›

The cheapest way to heat a room
  • Gas central heating. There's a good reason why many houses have gas central heating installed – it's the cheapest option. ...
  • Oil-filled heaters. ...
  • Electric heaters. ...
  • Change your energy supplier or tariff. ...
  • Reflect the heat. ...
  • Fit thermal curtains. ...
  • Bubble wrap on your windows. ...
  • Insulate your attic.
26 Sept 2022

Why is forced air so popular? ›

Forced air heating systems are popular because they are efficient, affordable, and compatible with central air conditioners.

Why do British Houses not have air conditioning? ›

“We are a heating-dominated country, not a cooling-dominated country,” said Tadj Oreszczyn, a professor of energy and environment at the University College London Energy Institute. He added: “We haven't designed our homes historically to cope with overheating. We've designed them to keep ourselves warm.”

Can you cool a house with radiators? ›

Yes, but it wouldn't work very well. The rate of heat transfer is more-or-less proportional to the temperature difference between the radiators and the surrounding air. This can easily be 50 or 60 degrees or more when the room is being heated.

Do Americans have radiators? ›

If you're a European walking into the average American home, you'll notice that the walls are conspicuously free of radiators. That's because most houses in the US are heated (and cooled) using a forced air system.

Do you need a humidifier with radiators? ›

When heating a home with radiators, there's no systemic way to produce moisture in the house like there is with forced air systems. Adding a humidifier to some or all of your cast iron radiators will add moisture to the air.

How do I add humidity to my house radiators? ›

If your home has built-in radiators instead of central (forced air) heating, capitalize on these radiant heat sources by placing a bowl of water on top of each unit to humidify your rooms. Depending on how hot your radiators get, be careful and use a cloth or kitchen mitt when you lifting the bowls.

Does putting bowl of water humidify a room? ›

Adding bowls of water around a room works kind of like a humidifier, but at a slower speed. Place a few bowls of water around the perimeter of the room you want to humidify and leave them there to allow the moisture to evaporate into the air.

Should I replace 30 year old radiators? ›

How Often Should Radiators be Replaced? There is no straight forward answer but in general you should replace your radiators anywhere between fifteen and twenty years. Sometimes, a lack of central heating does not mean that you need a new boiler but need to replace your radiators instead.

What type of radiator gives out the most heat? ›

Central heating radiators

These radiators have the highest heat output and greatest heating efficiency of all plumbed radiator styles, making them a popular choice in many homes. They use corrugated panels (convectors) to radiate heat into the room.

Are bigger radiators more efficient? ›

Radiator Size:

Larger radiators will often be more efficient. This is because they have a larger surface area to radiate heat, so the water inside them doesn't need to be as warm as in a smaller radiator to generate the same amount of heat.

How often do radiators need to be flushed? ›

Generally speaking, you should flush your radiator once every five years or every 100,000 miles that you drive. However, there are some signs that your car needs a coolant flush.

Are old radiators better than new ones? ›

It's easy to assume that radiators made decades ago are less efficient, but studies have shown that a new radiator can be as much as twice as efficient as even a twenty year old equivalent.

Do modern radiators work better? ›

Modern radiators are more energy efficient and they tend to heat up more quickly due to the lower water content which is typically around 24% less than that in radiators manufactured prior to 2000.

How many years does a radiator last? ›

A more powerful engine gives out more heat so it will need an upgraded radiator to handle the higher heat output effectively. A properly maintained radiator should last at least 3 years, and up to 8-10 years.

Can you put furniture in front of radiator? ›

You shouldn't place furniture directly in front of a radiator. The furniture would prevent heat from being distributed freely throughout the room, and could be damaged over time from the close exposure to heat.

Which type of heater is cheapest to run? ›

Generally speaking, Halogen heaters are one of the most inexpensive types of electric heater. They average around 1200W in terms of power output and because they provide instant-heat at close quarters, you shouldn't need to leave them on for long periods of time.

Do people still use radiators? ›

Steam radiators are one of the oldest types of radiators and are still commonly used today. Steam radiators are connected to a boiler given the task of heating up water.

What replaces old radiators? ›

Some architects replace original radiators with new cast iron ones by the brand Governale, which look similar to the old radiators with a slimmer profile. The radiator brand Runtal is another option for those with hot water systems.

Can I drain my radiators and still have hot water? ›

If they dont leak and the boiler is pressurised you can then use hot water. Boilers sometimes dont like being used in this way as they cannot disappate so much waste heat but its likely to be Ok but just watch it the first few times you use it in this way.

Which is better air conditioning or radiators? ›

Air conditioning units heat up much more quickly than heating systems with radiators and boilers which means less energy is wasted getting them up to temperature before they start heating the rooms. Sending heated water long distances through pipes also results in significant heat loss and wasted energy.

Is heating with radiators efficient? ›

Radiators can be an efficient, cost-saving way of heating your house. Their delivery pipes are a heat source, spreading the warmth out over a long, narrow area. The benefit of any radiator, whether it uses hot water or steam, is its efficiency.

Are radiator heaters more efficient? ›

Electric radiators are ultra-efficient because they convert 100% of the energy they use into heat. Their efficiency is also largely due to the amount of radiant heat they produce, as well as their in-built energy-saving features.

Do radiators make the air dry? ›

The fact is, boiler heat systems, either with hot water radiators or steam radiators, do not provide any more humidity than a forced-air system – at least they aren't supposed to. A properly working boiler and radiator heating system simply heat – it does not humidify.

Why do British Houses not have air conditioning? ›

“We are a heating-dominated country, not a cooling-dominated country,” said Tadj Oreszczyn, a professor of energy and environment at the University College London Energy Institute. He added: “We haven't designed our homes historically to cope with overheating. We've designed them to keep ourselves warm.”

Can you cool a house with radiators? ›

Yes, but it wouldn't work very well. The rate of heat transfer is more-or-less proportional to the temperature difference between the radiators and the surrounding air. This can easily be 50 or 60 degrees or more when the room is being heated.

Do Americans have radiators? ›

If you're a European walking into the average American home, you'll notice that the walls are conspicuously free of radiators. That's because most houses in the US are heated (and cooled) using a forced air system.

Why are radiators no longer used? ›

Radiators are inefficient

It takes a lot of energy to heat water. The time to heat up the water, and cool down when you no longer need the heating, make radiators less efficient compared with surface heating.

Should I remove radiators? ›

Removing too many radiators can cause the pressure to get too high, which could cause damage to the system. In general, removing one or two radiators isn't going to put the system under significant stress. But the job is probably best left to a professional if you need several radiators removed in your home.

What is the most efficient radiator? ›

Aluminium Radiators - The Kings of Efficiency

Aluminium is an excellent conductor of heat which means, when used as a radiator material, it's heats up to the desired room temperature very quickly. This means that less energy is used in bringing the material up to temperature when compared with other radiator metals.

What is the cheapest way of heating a house? ›

Gas boiler

It's not as cost-effective without solar panels, but a gas boiler is still the cheapest way to heat your home – though that's set to change soon, with the cost of gas rising more than twice as quickly as electricity.

Which type of heater is cheapest to run? ›

Generally speaking, Halogen heaters are one of the most inexpensive types of electric heater. They average around 1200W in terms of power output and because they provide instant-heat at close quarters, you shouldn't need to leave them on for long periods of time.

Which type of heater is best for large room? ›

Oil-filled radiator heaters are very popular when it comes to heating up larger rooms. They can be placed pretty much anywhere, can provide 5,000 BTU of heating output, and are dumb-easy to install. The best oil-filled radiator heater is the energy-efficient and extremely affordable (below $100) Delonghi KH390715CB.

Do you need a humidifier with radiators? ›

When heating a home with radiators, there's no systemic way to produce moisture in the house like there is with forced air systems. Adding a humidifier to some or all of your cast iron radiators will add moisture to the air.

How do I add humidity to my house radiators? ›

If your home has built-in radiators instead of central (forced air) heating, capitalize on these radiant heat sources by placing a bowl of water on top of each unit to humidify your rooms. Depending on how hot your radiators get, be careful and use a cloth or kitchen mitt when you lifting the bowls.

How much does it cost to heat a home with radiators? ›

Costs below are for radiators rated up to roughly 10,000 BTUs and below. The room size you heat impacts the unit size and cost.
...
Radiator Cost by Heat Source.
Heat SourceAverage Costs (Unit Only)
Hot Water$100 - $1,000
Electric$200 - $1,500
Steam$300 - $2,500
28 Feb 2022

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