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Basement Radiant Heating

Radiant Heating is Cleaner and More Efficient than Forced-Air Heating

Heating a basement, even one that's completely finished, can be a rather difficult and expensive endeavor. Concrete floors and walls allow cold, damp air in through their permeable skin and hamper any effort to heat the space. One effective way of combating this is to install radiant heating. Read on to learn about the benefits and costs of this type of heating system.

What is Radiant Heating?

A traditional heating system is known as convection heating. Most gas and oil burning furnaces use a convection system, which works by circulating heated air through a network of ducts. Once the hot air has cooled, the air settles down to floor-level and gets sucked up by the furnace intake. The air is then re-heated and re-circulated.

This type of system is extremely inefficient, however. Air is a poor conductor of heat, and a significant amount of heating loss occurs with convection. Radiant heating works by directly heating objects (such as floors and walls). Once warmed, these objects radiate heat throughout the entire living space. This system of heating is much more energy efficient than a traditional convection system.

Types of Radiant Heating Systems

There are two types of radiant heating: electric and hydronic. Electric radiant heat uses electricity for heating. A hydronic system uses hot water and needs a hydronic boiler (which works in a similar fashion to a hot water heater). While both are extremely efficient, electric systems tend to have lower up-front costs but higher back-end costs (due to electric bills).

In addition to a traditional radiant floor heating system, radiant wall and ceiling panels are available. These can be useful if you already have a finished basement and do not wish to tear up the floor.

Radiant wall panels come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, including those that resemble popular wall coverings … from drywall and beaded board to wood shiplap material. Radiant ceiling panels are typically made to resemble suspended ceiling tiles.

Basement Radiant Heat Costs

The following prices reflect national averages; actual costs will vary depending on your location.
  • Installing an electric radiant heating system costs $4 to $8 per square foot including materials (or $4,000-$8,000 for a 1,000 sq. ft. basement).
  • hydronic system costs $6 to $12 per square foot with installation ($6,000-$12,000).
  • A typical hydronic boiler system costs $4,000-$5,000, including installation.
  • Note that the above prices reflect both underfloor and wall/ceiling installations. Also, a new floor installation is assumed. A basement floor demo and install will significantly increase costs.
  • You can save money on a wall radiant heat system by installing 4 foot high panels (as opposed to wall-height panels).

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