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How does underfloor heating differ from forced air?

Did you know that there are three methods of heat transfer? These heating methods are conduction, convection and radiation. Conduction occurs through direct contact of surfaces that differ in temperature, like a stove-top burner transferring heat to a pot or pan. Heat is transferred through convection by circulation. This is the process used by forced air furnaces, which push hot air into a room. That air rises, cools and falls back down, and eventually returns through the duct work to be reheated and redistributed throughout the home. Radiation is a process in which energy is emitted – as particles or waves – by one object, which is then transmitted through an intervening medium or space and absorbed by another object. Think of the sun as the perfect example of radiation heating. Forced air heating systems use convection heating methods. They are designed to move heated air throughout the living space via duct work that is connected to a gas or oil furnace. The problem with forced air heating systems is that they are ineffective at providing comfort that the human body needs. Heating air is a poor way of heating a home. Not only are these systems ineffective, but they’re noisy and circulate allergens that can cause discomfort to the occupants. And... did I mention high maintenance?An additional drawback to forced air heating systems is that they create a pressure difference between the inside and outside of a home. This pressure difference causes cold air to enter the home through small cracks along windows and doors causing the system to work harder, resulting in higher operation costs. Forced air systems are also difficult to zone, causing further discomfort to the occupants. Think about it: A simple switch – the thermostat – is controlling the entire temperature of the home. How does it know the temperature of the kitchen from the temperature of the basement? Ask homeowners with a forced air heating system what areas of their homes are close to unbearable in the winter. I’m sure more than 90% will say the basement. It’s a fact that cold air falls and hot air rises.Even with all of these negative aspects, forced air systems are the least expensive systems to install and are therefore the most utilized method of heating. However, unless the installer designs the distribution duct work properly, a home heated with forced air will be uncomfortable to live in. It would be a disappointment to build a new home and not be able to fully utilize every square foot of the living space. I believe this is why the portable space heater was born!Underfloor heating systems heat using all three methods of heat transfer. Because people are in direct contact with the heating system, they are warmed by the conduction process. Through the convection method of heat transfer, the natural air currents in the home will transfer some of the heat from the under floor heating system. Finally, through the radiation method of heat transfer, objects in the installation site of the underfloor heating system heat objects in the living space equally at the same temperature level. This means the furniture, the floor coverings and wall furnishings will receive equal heating. Most importantly, underfloor heating systems heat homes’ occupants as well. Underfloor heating systems create no noise and do not circulate allergens throughout the home, because there is no blast of hot air moving these particulates around and driving them up the noses of the home’s occupants! Underfloor heating systems also create a very minimal pressure difference (if any at all) between the inside and outside of the home, thus keeping cold air from coming through all of the little cracks in the building. That’s where the human comfort factor comes in. Have you ever entered a grocery store and found the temperature in the vegetable and canned food areas comfortable, and then later found the temperature in the frozen foods section to be uncomfortable? If you were to check with a thermometer, you may be astonished to find that the air temperatures in both sections are relatively similar. The problem with the freezer section is that your body is transferring its heat energy to the freezers, causing an effect similar to when you sit next to a window in the winter. This effect does not happen in the other sections of the grocery store because there is no extreme cold source to draw your body’s heat energy. Forced air systems enhance this cold draft, which is accentuated near outside walls, and near windows and doors. With an underfloor heating system, there is no temperature difference throughout the home as the objects in the heated space help give off heat to colder surfaces, so your body doesn’t have to do it on its own. The end result is comfort. An additional comfort that comes from an underfloor heating system is knowing that your energy bills will be reduced by 20% or more compared to the costs generated from using a forced air heating system. So let’s recap: An underfloor heating system will provide cleaner indoor air for your loved ones, lower maintenance costs due to less moving parts, and your pocketbook will thank you for the lower energy bills due to the system’s energy efficiency. However, the most important aspect of underfloor heating systems is the comfort. Your family will happily utilize your entire home year round, rather than being confined to a few portions of the home throughout a cold winter. Do yourself a favor, and look into getting an under floor heating system for your home.