We recently purchased a condo built in the 80s and it has radiant ceiling heat. Each room has a dial thermostat. We decided to test it for the first time today. We turned the dial in one room up fairly high to make sure it will kick on, and are now waiting to see what happens. So far, nothing is happening.

Questions: Does it take awhile to turn on? Should we hear anything? Or smell anything? We confirmed there are fuses in the main box labeled for the heating system and they are not blown or missing. Is there any other kind of "central" thing to check, or switch to throw, or anything before the separate room dials will work?

Thanks for any info. I've googled and also searched this site for info but I guess we just want to know what this system does when it turns on, ie how we will know if it's working. Appreciate it!

Here is a pic of the room dial: https://imgur.com/a/5RhDK3U

  • Is it electric heat or water? Electric heat should start working in minutes. Water types need a boiler to be on/working. The building might have a central boiler and they have not turned it on yet.
    – crip659
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 18:57
  • I think it's electric, since there are fuses for it. We were expecting to hear it kick on but it's totally silent and so far we don't feel warmth from it. Sounds like we should turn it up and maybe try more than one of them. Crossing my fingers.
    – bp7550
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 18:59
  • If you are expecting it to glow like an electric cooker element then you will be disappointed, this should only get to above ambient as it is gentle heat. Check for warmth after 10 hours.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 19:03
  • If our ceiling started glowing like a stove I'd definitely be concerned, lol! I think we just thought we'd hear it banging or ticking or something to indicate action. Your words are reassuring - we've never dealt with this kind of system before so had no clue what to expect. Thanks, and I'll go ahead and leave it on and check much later. Appreciate it.
    – bp7550
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 19:08
  • Hot water heat still needs electricity and has dedicated fuses to run pumps, controls, etc. Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


If it's the type with cables embedded in the ceiling: You should not hear or see or smell anything (other than hearing screams from your wallet when the January electric bill comes in.)

Place I used to work had radiant ceiling panels mounted on the surface, which were 2x4 foot steel with a 500W element in each one - those would "tick" a bit audibly when turned on.

If you had a thermal camera (...you'd have already used it) you could see the paths of the cables getting warm in the ceiling. You might be able to feel that if you climb a ladder and feel the ceiling temperature in various spots. You may be able to rent one, or even check one out from a Library.

Built in the 1980's and it has fuses? Not breakers? Yikes! You may need to test the fuses if they are not the type that's visually evident when blown.

Anyway, to use it, if all is well with it, should be as simple as set the thermostat where you want it to be.

Alternate possibility depending on the type of condo: Many high-rise buildings have a boiler for heating, which might be supplying hot water to tubes in the ceiling, and it might not be turned on for the season yet. In that sort of place there should be a maintenance person you could ask about it.

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