What is Radiant Heat? Pros and Cons

By Josephine Nesbit

Reviewed by Devon Thorsby

July 6, 2023, at 10:05 a.m.

U.S. News & World Report

Radiant heat may be costly to install, but it’s among the most energy-efficient methods of heating your home. If you’re thinking of using a radiant heating system in your home, energy-efficient upgrades could save you 5% to 30% on your monthly energy bill while also ensuring the health and safety of your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

What Is Radiant Heat and How Does it Work?

Radiant heat is the transfer of heat from a hot surface. A fire in a fireplace produces radiant heat, as do radiant cooktops and electric heaters. Radiant heating systems provide heat to the floors or panels in the wall or ceiling of a house.

“Radiant systems run beneath the floor,” says Ross McCord, creative/brand manager for Warmboard, manufacturer of hydronic radiant floor heating panels. “The floor heats up and releases that heat to the room and is absorbed by objects. The floor feels nice and gently warm, and there is a quiet warmth throughout the house. House temperatures stay more steady and consistent.”

Forced-air heating systems push hot hair into the house by a loud blower or furnace, McCord adds. “As the air cools, fans constantly turn on and off all day and night to try and maintain the desired temperature,” he says.

Types of Radiant Heating Systems

There are also different types of radiant heating systems: electric, hydronic and air:

  • Electrical radiant heating systems use electric coils to produce heat. “This typically will go in a small area of the house. It makes the floor feel nice but is generally not used as the primary heat source in a home,” McCord explains.
  • Hydronic radiant heating systems use a boiler to heat water, which is then pumped throughout the house in tubing underneath the floor. “This method is highly energy-efficient and is often the sole heating system for the entire home,” McCord says.
  • Air radiant heating systems use heated air for heat transfer, but this method is considered the least efficient and not usually recommended.

The Pros and Cons of Radiant Heating Systems


  • Electric radiant heating is inexpensive to install.
  • Hydronic heating systems are very efficient to operate.
  • No loud fans mean they’re quiet.
  • The system allows for uniform heating.
  • Radiant heat improves air quality.
  • Radiant heat is energy-efficient.


  • Electric radiant heating can be expensive to operate, depending on local electricity rates.
  • Hydronic systems are expensive to install.
  • Radiant heat is difficult to retrofit and may require major renovations.
  • It requires a longer installation time.
  • Floor heating systems could increase the floor height in a room.

How Much Does Radiant Heating Cost to Install?

Installation costs depend on what type of radiant heating system you use, the size of your home and where you live.

For an electric radiant heating system, McCord estimates that the product will cost between $5 and $10 per square foot and installation will run between $10 and $15 per square foot. For a hydronic radiant heating system, he says product costs vary wildly.

“Some materials are cheaper but more expensive to install and less energy-efficient,” McCord claims. “Warmboard has a higher product cost but much lower labor costs.”

Estimates can also vary depending on where you live. “In some parts of the country, the cost can be around $20 per square foot and in other parts, closer to $35 per square foot,” McCord says.

According to Angi, it costs about $1,700 to $6,000 on average to install heated floors. But if you want a whole-house system, you’re looking at up to $48,000.

However, most people won’t heat their entire home. Radiant heating is a popular addition to bathrooms, where tile flooring can get bitterly cold during the winter. In that case, costs will depend on the size of the bathroom and type of tiles you use.

Types and Costs of Radiant Heat Materials

According to Angi, here’s how much you can expect to pay per square foot for various radiant flooring materials.

  • Tile: $20 to $40.
  • Concrete: $15 to $30.
  • Laminate: $15 to $20.
  • Hardwood: $15 to $20.
  • If you’re looking to install radiant heating on your ceiling, you can expect to pay between $50 and $60 per square foot, with costs increasing if you want higher voltage and wattage panels.
  • Radiant Heat Repair Costs
  • Another common concern about radiant heating is repair costs. Radiant heating systems will require a professional to fix the system, which can require tearing up the floors or even replacing entire sections. According to HomeAdvisor, it costs a national average of $1,284 to repair heated floors and between $150 to $2,900 to repair a heated ceiling.
  • The most expensive type of repair is a tube leak, which requires replacing the entire system with new tubing. That’ll run you $5,000 to $7,000. However, if the tubing is copper, repairs without replacing the system may be possible (and considerably cheaper).

Does Radiant Heat Increase or Lower Heating Costs?

McCord says that electric radiant heating systems will cause energy bills to go up, but this varies by region. Hydronic is much more energy-efficient than many other heating systems, which means a lower energy bill. “Generally, homeowners can expect a savings of about 25%,” he says.

The average price to run a radiant heating system for 24 hours is $3 compared to $20 for traditional air heating systems, according to HomeAdvisor.

If you have a hydronic radiant heating system, the size of your boiler and the type of fuel it uses could affect operational costs. Heating with a gas boiler costs $1 to $1.40 per hour of usage and between $800 and $2,000 per year, according to home improvement information network HomeGuide.

Do Radiant Heating Systems Impact the Resale Value of a Home?

“It can, but it’s hard to say. There’s no data to really support this,” McCord says. “The percentage of homes with radiant floors is relatively small.”

For those who know about radiant heating, it could make the home more desirable than one with a heating system using forced air. “Also, radiant homes are becoming more prevalent, so more people are wanting it and seeking it out. Just no data yet about influencing home price,” McCord adds.