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Radiant Heat: Worth the Investment?


Jun 12, 2020 by Maurie Backman

You have several options when it comes to heating a home, and radiant heat is one worth exploring. Here, we'll help you decide whether it's worth investing in.

What is radiant heat?

Radiant heat supplies heat directly to floors through panels installed beneath them. Forced-air heat, by contrast, pushes heat through vents and ductwork that runs throughout a home.

There are several types of radiant heat. Hydronic radiant heat works by circulating boiler-heated water through tubing beneath your floors while electric radiant heat uses a network of cables that run beneath a floor to heat it.

One major benefit of radiant heat is that it allows for a uniform, even level of heat. With forced-air heat, you're reliant on vents to blow it evenly, and in open floor plan environments, you might struggle to attain the level of warmth you're comfortable with. Radiant heat largely solves for this problem by concentrating heat at the ground that can then rise and warm your entire home.

Radiant heat also doesn't make noise. That's a bonus if you don't appreciate being kept awake at night listening to the sound of rustling vents or clanging radiators. Furthermore, with radiant heat, you don't have to worry about allergens and dust being blown around your home, since that heat doesn't come through vents.

What are the costs involved?

The amount you'll spend on radiant heat will depend on the size of your home. According to HomeAdvisor (NASDAQ: ANGI), installing radiant heat for a 2,400-square-foot home costs $14,000 to $48,000 for hydronic radiant heat, and $19,000 to $36,000 for electric radiant heat.

Clearly that's a pretty substantial investment. Furthermore, with hydronic radiant heat, you need a functioning boiler. If your home doesn't have one, it could cost an average of $5,570 for a new one, plus an additional $1,000 to $2,500 for labor, reports HomeAdvisor.

By contrast, in a house with existing ductwork, forced-air heat could cost as little as $1,700 to $4,000 for a new gas furnace, assuming you're content with a basic model, according to CostHelper. But if you need to install new ductwork and vents, that could more than double your cost, depending on the size of your home.

Despite the cost, radiant heat tends to be more energy efficient than forced-air heat, so what you pay for installation you stand to save throughout the years in utility costs.

Will radiant heat increase your home's value?

As a homeowner, it pays to invest in upgrades that lend to added resale value. Unfortunately, you may not get a ton of your money back if you opt for radiant heat, as future buyers may not look for it in particular. Rather, the value of radiant heat comes from your personal enjoyment of it. Because radiant systems heat homes more evenly and consistently, you might manage to avoid cold spots all winter long, all the while saving money on utility bills through the years so you eventually recoup much of your initial investment.

Also, while radiant heat isn't always a strong selling point the same way an upgraded kitchen is, it's still a feature you can highlight. And if you're looking to rent out your home, it's certainly something you can advertise.

That said, if you're looking to flip a house, radiant heat may not be worth the money, especially if you're on a budget. Similarly, if your goal is solely to increase your home's value, you may not accomplish it with radiant heat. But if your objective is to enjoy a comfortable interior through the harshest of winters, radiant heat may be more than worth the money.

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Maurie Backman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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