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After a long, hard winter that saw record-breaking snowfalls and temperature lows, it’s only natural to look forward to the fairer weather ahead. But don’t let the arrival of spring distract you from the reality that, if you were uncomfortable at home during the cold months, you are likely to be uncomfortable again. And it’s only a matter of time before winter returns. So rather than wait around for the weather to turn foul once more, capitalize on the off-season to reassess your home heating. There may be no such thing as a perfect system, but, hey, it’s 2015: You deserve heating that operates efficiently to create consistent comfort. Has it been a while since you last looked into your options? Read on for an examination of three main issues that factor into home heat decision-making today.
Warmth is warmth, right? Wrong. If you have radiator, baseboard, or forced-air heating, you know the thermostat only approximates the temperature in your home. It cannot provide an accurate reading, because the indoor temperature fluctuates, not only from room to room, but from one corner of a room to another. Typically, it’s warmest near the heating unit and considerably cooler farther away. So depending on where you’re standing or sitting, you can feel either too warm or not nearly warm enough. With forced-air heating, the most ubiquitous type in America, temperatures are particularly variable, thanks to the roller-coaster effect of the system turning on and off. When the heat kicks on, blasts of hot air rush into the space until the target temperature has been reached. Then the heat suddenly turns off, and it stays off until the room gets cold enough to snap the system back into action. Is any of this comfortable? Not really.
If you want steady, even heat in your home, one option is to forego traditional systems in favor of radiant heat. The technology has been around for years—centuries, in fact—but only more recently has it become a viable whole-home solution. In this type of system, heat arrives, not via vents or standalone units, but from panels under the floor. Panels, each inset with hot-water tubing, lie under the floor material of your choice, delivering heat to the space above quietly, invisibly, and in a constant, enveloping way. Certainly, there are aesthetic advantages to a heating system that does not force you to decorate around bulky radiators or wall-hugging baseboards. Air quality benefits too, since there are no dust-spreading, allergy-exacerbating ducts at play here. But for homeowners who want warmth more than anything else, the reason to choose a radiant system is that its design and technology always ensure maximum comfort.
In an era when energy costs were not so prohibitively high, it might have been fine to install an all-or-nothing system, one that offered no compromise between the “off” setting and full-throttle operation. Times have changed. Today, innovative systems allow homeowners to target different temperatures for different parts of the home. So if you’re sleeping in a second-floor bedroom, you no longer need to cover the cost necessary to keep the unoccupied first-floor at 70 degrees. Though it’s not always impossible to achieve zoned heating with traditional systems, newer technologies accommodate zoning from the get-go. Warmboard, a leading radiant manufacturer, designates a separate thermostat for separate zones, enabling customers to minimize household energy usage. What’s more: In a family with members who prefer different temperatures, zoning makes it so that everyone can get through the winter comfortably.
Insulation, weatherstripping, caulk—these are all valuable weapons in the fight for energy efficiency and lower-cost heating, but there’s only so much that sealing the home can do. In other words, you can insulate every wall and plug every air leak, but if your heating system consumes a relatively large amount of energy in the effort to reach and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, you’re inevitably going to be stuck with sizable month-to-month utility bills.
That’s one of the reasons that more and more homeowners are switching to radiant. Compared to forced-air heating, radiant systems operate at least 25% more efficiently, according to a study conducted by Kansas State University in conjunction with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. In part, radiant excels in efficiency because, unlike forced-air systems with imperfect ductwork, the former isn’t vulnerable to heat loss. So whereas a forced-air furnace has to work overtime, consuming extra energy to make up for its losses, radiant panels waste virtually no energy when running.
Not every radiant heating system maximizes homeowner savings. Certainly, the basic technology offers efficiency advantages, but individual system components make a big difference too. For instance, in some radiant setups, hydronic tubes (or electric coils) are embedded within a slab of sluggish concrete that takes hours to heat up and cool down. Seeing the limitations of concrete, manufacturers like Warmboard moved on to sheathing under-floor panels in highly conductive aluminum. Here, the heat responds to thermostat adjustments, not gradually, but more or less instantly. In addition, because aluminum transfers heat so effectively, the home boiler can heat the water for the system to a lower temperature than other systems would require. In the end, you can save serious money on home heating by choosing any radiant system, but among all manufacturers offering radiant products, Warmboard can save you the most.
This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.