The conventional assumption is that heat rises. Conventional perhaps, but incorrect! "Hot air" rises, but "heat" can travel in any direction. Radiant energy transfer is caused by a warm surface giving up its heat to a cooler surface.
Whenever there is a temperature difference between two surfaces, both surfaces will attempt to equalize. Radiant energy travels through space without heating the space itself. It turns into heat only when it contacts a cooler surface. Our human comfort relies just as much on radiant heat transfer as it does on air temperature, yet the majority of heating and air-conditioning professionals think only in terms of air temperature. As a result, Americans are missing out on a truly comfortable living environment in their own homes. By controlling both the air temperature and the radiant transfer, radiant panel systems deliver unsurpassed comfort.
Where Can the Panels Be Located? A radiant panel can be effectively mounted on any flat surface that is of sufficient size. The larger the surface, the lower the actual surface temperature required. A wall radiator may have a surface temperature of 180ÁF while an 81ÁF floor will do the same job. A heated ceiling will raise the surface temperature of floors and walls, while heated floors will raise the temperature of ceilings and walls. Air coming in contact with these surfaces will also be gently heated.
How Are Panels Heated? No matter what their location, radiant panels are heated in one of three ways: (1) water pipes; (2) electric elements; or (3) air channels embedded in the panel. Of these three, air is seldom used, leaving electric circuits and water pipes (or channels) as the most common. Electric panels have electricity as their sole utility, are quite simple in construction, and generally have a lower "up-front" cost. Water, on the other hand, can be heated by almost any utility (e.g., natural gas, propane, oil, wood, solar, or electricity), and is quite versatile. Your choice will probably depend on the energy costs of the available utility and the size of the project.
How Is the System Controlled? A simple wall thermostat is generally all that is required. You may choose to add a "weather-sensitive control" option with a thermostat in the rooms of your choice, adjusting the panel temperature on the basis of the outdoor temperature. This provides additional comfort as well as energy savings because you can turn the temperature down in those rooms that are not in use or that you prefer to have cooler. Keep in mind though that additional features like these increase the system's cost just as power windows and locks add to the sticker price of an automobile. But, unlike automobile options, these comfort features pay back in energy savings.
For more information on the types of panel systems available, costs, energy savings, and more, call Sullivan Plumbing at (217) 355-3789, or contact us using our simple contact form. More information about radiant heating is available online from the Radiant Panel Association.
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