Comparison: Forced Air vs. Radiant Heat

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How you heat your home has a big impact on how comfortable you are – and how much you will pay to stay warm every month. But how do you choose among your many options if you’re planning to install a heating system for your newly-built or renovated North Fork or East End home?

Let’s explore some of the features, pros, and cons of two of the most common heating system choices: “forced air” and radiant heat.

Forced Air

A forced air heating system uses a furnace to warm the air in your home; the furnace transfers heat created by the combustion of natural gas, heating oil, or propane to heat a volume of air, which is then forced through ductwork using fans that deliver heat to registers (vents) in each room of the house.


  • Usually the sensible choice if you have existing ductwork.
  • Heated air from vents can increase the perception of warmth in a cold room.
  • Can be economical if installed as an all-in-one HVAC solution.
  • Can be customized to create heating zones using a zone control.
  • Can be adapted for use with indoor air quality equipment (humidifiers, air purifiers, etc.).


  • Duct leaks can be a significant, efficiency-robbing problem
  • If your home does not have air ducts, you need to have them installed to use a forced air system or central heating system, which can be costly.
  • Conditions inside the ductwork can encourage and spread mold or other microorganism growth; blowing air from vents can distribute dust and other allergens.
  • Vents can limit your options for furniture placement if you want to maximize airflow.

Radiant floor heating

In contrast to forced air systems, radiant floor heating warms the objects and people in the room rather than the air around them.

The heat in a radiant system may be produced by electricity, hot water, or hot air, which heats a floor or wall surface; that heat on that surface is then transferred to people and objects in the room via infrared radiation, like heat from the sun.


  • A radiant heat system eliminates inefficiencies caused by rising heat, since the they don’t work by heating air; as a result, radiant heat systems typically operate 15 percent more efficiently than other heating systems.
  • Radiant systems don’t push allergens throughout the house and don’t offer microorganisms a place to grow.
  • Radiant heating systems also offer more flexibility in furniture placement, since you will not have to content with blocking vents.


  • Radiant heating is installed beneath the floor, which makes it significantly harder to access the heating elements for repairs or maintenance.
  • The cost of installing a radiant heating system is typically higher than forced air; installation of a radiant floor typically also takes longer to complete.
  • Radiant heating systems increase the height of the floor by up to half an inch, in case vertical space is a factor.

Summing up

When it comes to heating your Long Island home, there are many great options to choose from; the best one depends on your home, budget, and preferences. Whatever choice you make, be sure to have your heating system installed by experienced pros who will give you a detailed, written estimate on the work to come – like the one you will get from the licensed, bonded pros at Burt’s Reliable.

Not sure what kind of heating system is right for you? We can help! Contact a Burt’s heating specialist today to find out more, or to get a FREE, no obligation estimate on heating equipment for your North Fork or East End home.