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My condo came with in-wall hot air units with a fan (one for the bedroom, one for the living room).

The hot air unit in the living room

I am very unhappy with this heating system and am looking for alternatives.

  • It is very noisy (to the point that I can't sleep with the heat on).
  • There's a strong dust smell (I am sensitive to dust and this easily triggers allergies).
  • The living room is big: 20ft x 14ft (10+ft high ceilings) and the heating unit there (size: 13in x 21.5in) is incapable of keeping it warm in winter.

Previously, in France, I would use "radiant heating panels", i.e. a unit where a metal (or stone) core is heated then radiates heat. These are silent, do not move dust around, and provide an excellent, immediate sensation of warmth. See https://www.atlantic-comfort.com/Our-products/Room-heating/Extensive-heat-panel-heaters/Solius-Solius-Wi-Fi for an example, or https://www.campa.fr/produit/campastyle-design-30-vertical-1250w-anthracite-cmdd13vanth for a more high-end version.

I looked around and it seems that no such thing exists in the US. While I could import a couple of the former radiators myself (I have 208V/60Hz and the spec sheet for those says they're rated 220V/60Hz) I most likely cannot do so because they wouldn't be up to code and would be a liability (if you think I can make this work out: please tell me! that would solve my problem)

The only alternatives I found are "infrared panels" which seem substantially inferior in terms of efficiency, as they don't seem to have a heat-retaining element; they also don't seem to be very popular, as I could only find a few references. Furthermore, they all seem to be plug-in units which entails running them on 110V (less efficient). See https://www.homedepot.com/p/Wexstar-800-Watt-Infrared-Electric-Panel-Heater-White-WS-8WUS/307665070 or https://www.warmlyyours.com/en-US/radiant-panel for what I've found.

Am I missing something and does there exist some alternative to hot-air that would provide silence, comfort and warmth?

Bonus question: If infrared panels are the only option, does anyone have experience with them and are they a viable plan given the size of my living room?

  • I hate those heaters...and that makes me suspect your condo developers of being cheap <expletives> – Ecnerwal Sep 22 at 17:33
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I'm currently storing 9 240VAC 500 watt radiant (or infrared) panels; not sure if I'll use them or not, but they certainly exist in the US market. Mine were taken out and replaced with an oil-fired boiler as a less expensive source of heat. The space they were in had at least a 10 ft ceiling and they were ceiling-mounted, and quite effective, just expensive to run compared to other heat sources. They are a low-mass structure (steel panel with heating element attached, insulation behind.)

Storage/mass would only make sense if you had different electricity rates at different times - all electric resistance heat is basically 100% efficient; though cold-climate heat pumps can be 300% efficient and are thus a better choice if using electricity for heat. Mass makes the system slower to respond, not more efficient.

Without bothering to do an extensive search, I was able to quickly find 240V 250W panels in the USA currently. "240v radiant panel" as a search term, sift the bad results manually (I got 120V & hot water radiators mixed into my results along with the correct item.)

If your condo is poorly insulated and/or has inadequate power provisioned for the living room heat circuit, you may need to upgrade that or add additional circuits to provide adequate heat. Unless you have bizarrely low electricity rates or very limited need for heating at all, some other heat option will probably be cheaper to operate, but that depends on what you have available in your local market / at the condo.

Fluid-based radiant floor &/or wall heat (with whatever is the least expensive available method heating the fluid) is one option, but it is a major job to retrofit it, much easier/cheaper to build it in than to add it later.

  • Thanks, this helps. > Unless you have bizarrely low electricity rates or very limited need for heating at all, some other heat option will probably be cheaper to operate. So panels are generally considered inefficient, or at least more expensive to operate than say, forced air? > they were ceiling-mounted Are panels always ceiling-mounted in the US? Thanks! – Jonathan Protzenko Sep 22 at 18:51
  • If the heating source (hot air, radiant, baseboard does not matter) is electric resistance, there are usually less expensive sources of heat; electric resistance is 100% efficient, but if 85% efficient oil heat costs 1/3 what electric heat does, it's less expensive to run for the same heating load. Page 3 of this report (which stopped being updated 3 years ago) gives a comparison for typical efficiencies with prices, and may prove educational. publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/… – Ecnerwal Sep 22 at 19:46
  • This math is inherently local - the US tends to have lower fuel prices and higher electricity prices compared to some other countries, and there are also wide variations between different states/regions in the US. but in general, if you have natural gas available at your location it's almost always the least expensive heat source in the USA. – Ecnerwal Sep 22 at 19:56
  • thanks -- unfortunately electric is the only option in this condo – Jonathan Protzenko Sep 22 at 21:14
  • So, a cold-climate heat pump is the only "more efficient" option, and does involve moving air (but no burning dust, and most decent ones are much quieter than those things you have.) Otherwise, any electric resistance heat you choose will be about the same cost to run, so you might as well choose one you are happy with on the dust, air movement, and noise fronts. – Ecnerwal Sep 22 at 23:21

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