Radiant Heat

Q. We are in the process of making decisions on what kind of heat to put in the house. Do any of you have any experience with radiant heat? Particularly when the power source is electricity. If so, please let me know what I should consider in making this decision. – Randal

A. Well, at my workplace we had radiant heaters all over the building, but they were gas. On cold days it took 3 hours to warm the building. The power companies are pushing Heat Pumps. I’m sure you’re familiar with the principle. Pump the hot air out in the summer and pump the warm air in during the winter. One of my former bosses was bragging about his and saying it was great. I asked him what his bill was and he said $125-$130 a month. I don’t really think I believe him. My son has electric heat and his bills got so high that he decided to add on a propane gas backup. I tried to explain the problems I had experienced with propane, but, as usual, he had to find out the hard way. He went and bought a 750 gallon propane tank(used) and put it out behind his house. He had the tank filled and as I was trying to explain to him, in 1 month the tank was empty. He was horrified! He went down and bought 3 or 4 1500 watt radiant heaters. These are the portable kind you can buy for $19.99-$29.99. Incidently, the only time propane is economical is when it’s used for cooking and space heaters. The people who sell the propane say they can fix a furnace to use propane, but they can’t really. I don’t know where you live, but is there any chance that you’ll have natural gas piped into your area anytime soon? If so, I’d opt for the portable heaters until the gas is available. Of course, my gas bill DOUBLED last winter. I only heat 3 rooms and have been paying about $35 and last winter it was $65. I live in Alabama. Would fuel oil be an option for you? Further north fuel oil is used quite a lot. Lots of folks who live out in the country have their homes with A/C for the summer and bring in a wood stove during the winter. Naturally, that means somebody has to keep that baby going and learn how to bank it so that it still has some embers going in the morning. Lots of folks here make a good living cutting and selling firewood. – Bill R.

A. Radiant heat, if in the ceiling, will crack the plaster after a while. Heat pumps give off a cold heat(oxymoron). I like hot water baseboard or gas heat. Both of these give a warm heat compared to a heat pump. Also, a heat pump won’t work if it gets too cold. If that happens, then your electric backup kicks in. It will all depend on your preferences.

A. I had experience with radiant heat which was built into the house, (Levittown, PA) not added afterward. It was pipes under the tiles throughout the house which were heated by water powered by a oil heater. It was wonderful for the children. I also had windows in the living room and bedroom that went from the ceiling to the floor. During the winter months, I opened the curtains in the morning on sunny days. It heated the tiles and saved me a lot of money on heat. I would recommend radiant heat. After living in Virginia (Lynchburg) during the years of 1993 and 1994, horrible winters, horrible Springs with such high winds it would uproot trees and we’d lose electricity, I would also recommend you get a big generator. We were without electricity for 10 days and the electric company didn’t care, telling me, "I don’t know what your problem is, nobody else has had electricity for 10 days either." I told them, "My problem is that I lived in SC and Duke Power would tell me, ‘Your electricity will be on in 2 hours or 5 hours’, not 10 days!" My husband, born and raised in Virginia, has bought a generator for our home in SC. Since we’ve only lost electricity for no more than 27 hours in 27 years, we don’t need the generator. It’s never been used and he will be selling it to pay for his new guitar. May The Angels Watch Over You – Betty G.

A. We had radiant heating in our ranch house in NJ (many years ago). It was a ‘California Ranch’ without a basement. Having lived in New England all my life, I never heard of a house without a basement. Our radiant heating was in the floor (electric heated by hot water); it was wonderful – the floors were always warm – never had to remind the 3 young
ones to put their slippers on. It was very inexpensive & the heater itself which was in the kitchen was super for drying hats, gloves, jackets, etc. when they all came in from playing in the snow. Don’t know how the present radiant heat of today is – we are now in CA & some of our friends have it in their condos, but it is placed in the ceiling & very, very expensive to run. Hope this gives you some idea of what we enjoyed with our radiant heating.Good luck – Rosalie

A. The problem that i found with the radiant heat in the ceiling was that they like to stick on. Also, the thing that my mother used to do is vacuum them out. Additionally, under the table was always cold (very cold). go with gas its easy and my bill in the winter is maybe 50 dollars from the heat (I live in a trailer).

A. When I moved into a ranch house in my community I found out it was heated by hot water radiant heat. I had never heard of that until then. I loved it in the winter because when you get up in the morning and put your feet on the floor it is nice and warm. The only problem I remember was in the bathroom where there was ceramic tile. The tile would get very warm and I had to put a rug on the floor or I couldn’t stand on it. Since heat rises, it was a very even heat (no blowers) and you didn’t have to worry about where to put furniture so it didn’t block the registers. I lived in that house for 5 years and loved it. – Wanda

A. I live near Rochester NY. We bought our second hand house six years ago and it had baseboard electric heat. I installed gas lines for propane gas for the appliances. We moved into the house in November and used the electric for heat the first winter. After paying over $400.00 a month in January and February’s heat, we decided to install radiant heat in the house. Our heat bills dropped to about $125.00 for Jan. And Feb. the next season. I installed a hot water boiler and fastened the heat plastic tubing to the under side of the floor ,or basement ceiling. We are very satisfied with the "warm feet heat". You could install either an electric or propane boiler for the heat. This type of heat is expensive to install, but it has a great pay back period. It is one of the most efficient types of heat because you are heating the building structure itself. most types of heat, heat the air in the room and transfer the heated air to the building, but air is a poor conductor of heat. If you talk to a contractor, you can do the majority of the work yourself to keep the price down.

We have had electric heat registers for 30 years and we save a lot on summer rates because we can turn those registers off on the circuit breaker tbox for summer and the air conditioner is separate . Our bill drops in half. People with gas had $700.00 bills and electric houses the same size was $109.00. Think about it. Gas may never stay the same.

It was terribly expensive! I feared the electric bill coming in during the winter mostly. After many years, the opportunity to switch to forced hot water by oil, came and I jumped at it. Now our total electric bill is less than what we paid just for electric hot water. If it is at all possible, financially for you, I would suggest, solar energy and heat.- Patrisha

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