I'm considering doing a radiant heat retrofit into my home and removing an older forced air system. The plumber is proposing a staple up from the basement into aluminum plates with PEX tubing with a condensing boiler.

It's a big job, so I'm trying to do all my homework. Everything I have read seems to indicate there are no major downsides besides the cost, but a lot of the material out there seems to be from the radiant industry.

Can anyone enlighten me to some of the downsides of radiant floor heating?

  • Personally, I'm not a fan of water heating systems. Water is a very damaging force, especially when unleashed within a home. Tiny leaks can cause huge amounts of damage, which cost big bucks to repair. That's just my personal opinion though, so take it with a grain of salt. – Tester101 Sep 15 '15 at 13:54
  • I've seen less trouble with forced hot water systems than with normal plumbing, @tester101. Admittedly I'm not a pro. De gustibus... – keshlam Sep 15 '15 at 14:33
  • @keshlam Normal plumbing is kind of required, whereas water heat can be avoided. again, it's just my opinion. – Tester101 Sep 15 '15 at 15:43

Here are some potential downsides, besides cost (which is a big one):

  1. Can't have central air conditioning.
  2. How to heat the basement? I assume you plan on insulating under the PEX tubing to make most of the heat go through the floor. This makes it tough to heat the basement, if that's something you want.
  3. Will the warm floors be noticable? For well-insulated and relatively airtight homes, the floors generally won't get warm enough to notice any improved comfort, on most days.
  4. Slow response to weather changes - Plate-and-tube less so than in-slab tubes, but this system type can be slow to respond to fast weather changes (see p33-39 in http://www.duluthenergydesign.com/Content/Documents/GeneralInfo/PresentationMaterials/2013/Day1/hydronics-siegenthaler.pdf)
  5. "Furnaces dry out the air" is a myth. You didn't specifically mention this, but it is a commonly held belief that forced air heat dries out the air more than radiant heat. This is a myth. See: bookstore.ashrae.biz/journal/download.php?file=ASHRAE-D-AJ11MarHVAC-20110305.pdf
  • 2
    6. In a home with central heat/air conditioning, the air is circulated and passes through a filter. This circulation aids in preventing a number of woes. And IMO, I find this also creates a more pleasant place to live. – BrownRedHawk Sep 15 '15 at 19:40

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