Closeup on an exposed hydronic radiant floor and the homeowner's feet who is installing it.

Hydronic heating systems – in which water is the medium for heat transfer – use various radiators, such as baseboard, wall-mounted, and old cast iron classics that stand on the floor.

However, when someone talks about radiant heating, they’re generally speaking about radiant floor heating. This is a heat distribution system that uses tubing hidden entirely from sight. 

The lack of noticeable radiators is one of the critical features of these heating systems. They even work soundlessly. Thus, the heat is distributed quietly, evenly, and without the pesky on-and-off modulation of a forced-air system.

Homeowners don’t have to arrange furniture to make room for bulky radiators or hot-air registers. Instead, it’s essentially an install-it-and-forget-it system. 

However, a common question among many about radiant floor heating systems is whether they can also cool their homes. If you are wondering the same lines, continue reading to get your answer. 

Can You Cool Your House with Radiant Floor Heating?

Radiant floor heating generally doesn’t include a provision for cooling. The same tubing that distributes hot water during winter could be used to cool the home in summer. While these dual systems are totally possible, they are pretty rare in American homes. 

One reason is the possibility of water damage as moisture in the air accumulates on surfaces cooled below the dew point. To prevent this, indoor relative humidity must be controlled—a tough task in regions with high latent cooling loads.  

Do You Need a Separate Air Conditioning System with Radiant Floor Heating?

The answer to this question is mostly yes. That’s because homes with radiant floor heating tend to have another system to meet their cooling requirements. Even though it is possible, HVAC professionals generally recommend using more conventional AC systems rather than using a radiant floor heating system.

How To Cool Your House Alongside Radiant Floor Heating

Here are some cooling systems you can use alongside a radiant floor heating system. 

Central Air Conditioning Systems 

A conventional split system is the most common cooling system currently used in homes. However, the question is: is it possible to combine central air and radiant heat?

It is quite unsurprising to discover that it is the most common cooling system used alongside radiant floor heating, as most homeowners install a central HVAC system before investing radiant floor heating.

Central air conditioner units on the exterior of a home.

A split air conditioner system has an external unit that comprises the condenser and compressor. The same unit even contains the evaporator coil and blower for the system. The air conditioning unit is connected to a furnace or heat pump inside the house, typically in the attic or basement. 

They operate by circulating air conditioner refrigerant to and from the indoor and outdoor unit through refrigeration lines. The unit’s blower then sucks the warm air and sends it over to the evaporator coil to lower its temperature.

Once the air has reached a lower temperature, the blower distributes the air using ducts that are located all across the building. 

Nevertheless, a thermostat that manages the air conditioner’s temperature for the split system won’t be the same thermostat used to manage the temperature of the radiant floor heating system.

Typically, older houses that haven’t been renovated do not have central heating. Thus, if you have such a home with radiant flooring, you will need to use another air conditioner system for its cooling source. 

Ductless Air Conditioner Systems 

Ductless air conditioners, also known as mini-split systems, work similarly to central HVAC system.

The critical difference between these two systems is that rather than having one indoor unit that circulates cooled air through ductwork, ductless systems have several small indoor units offering cooling to separate rooms or zones.

A couple of homeowners enjoying each other's company on the couch with a mini-split air handler prominently shown on the wall behind them

Mini-splits are a perfect pick for new additions, older houses, or other situations where installing ductwork is unsuitable. 

Moreover, a mini-split can be a viable option if you’ve got a radiant floor heating system installed in separate rooms in your house. They’re easy to run, small, and feature a separate thermostat for every indoor unit. 

Window Air Conditioners

Window AC units are the next method to use in tandem with radiant floor heating. They work using the same technology as a central air conditioning system. The main difference is that all their components (compressor, coils, condenser, etc.) are situated in one separate unit on the windowsill of an apartment building or home. 

Window ACs are portable, small, fitted, and installed on a windowsill within a few hours. They also have their own temperature-adjustment setting.

Thus, when your heated floors are switched off in the hotter months, you can easily switch on the unit and adapt the temperature according to your preferences. 

Packaged HVAC Systems 

Packaged HVAC systems are another kind of AC system that is compatible with radiant heat flooring. However, these systems aren’t that popular.

These HVAC systems work as a complete cooling and heating solution for areas that don’t have enough room to accommodate a furnace or air handler. 

They are comprise of the same elements as a mini-split or central air conditioning system. However, they only have a single outdoor unit, which generally sits at the back side of a house or over the roof of an industrial building. 

They can work as an excellent alternative if your radiant floors start to malfunction, forcing you to choose an alternative heating option. 

There are essentially four kinds of packaged HVAC systems, including:

  • Air conditioner packaged unit – this system is a great choice for people who live in humid and warm climates, as they provide various humidity control options.
  • Heat pump packaged unit – fuses heating and air conditioning functions into a single system and is ideal for regions that experience mild winters. 
  • Electric/gas packaged unit – these systems offer cooling and heating using a gas furnace during winters. They operate as an electric-based and high-efficiency cooling system during the hotter months. 
  • Dual fuel packaged unit – this system works as a heat pump and offers effective dehumidification and cooling during summers. 

Radiant Cooling 

Radiant cooling systems are chilled beams or slabs typically installed inside the floors, walls, and ceilings. These beams and slabs produce a cooling effect by absorbing the heat from your home. 

Radiant cooling systems make use of water-filled tubing. Thus, they are also alternatively known as hydronic cooling systems. The chilled water flows through the fitted pipes and cools the beams or slabs. 

The pipes and valves of a hydronic radiant floor heating system are shown on the wall attached to the exposed lines spanning the floor

The water supply needs a moderate temperature between 58-65ºF. The floor is going to be cooled between 68-75ºF. Homeowners must control the supply water temperature to prevent getting closer to the dew point by keeping the surface temperature over 66º while maintaining the relative humidity below 50%. 

Last Few Words

Radiant floor heating and radiant floor cooling systems can be challenging, depending on your home’s existing HVAC system and its installation requirements.

We hope this guide helped you understand whether or not you can use radiant floor heating systems for cooling along with some other cooling alternatives. 

To find out which cooling or heating option is most suitable for your house, we highly recommend you consult an experienced HVAC technician.

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