Closeup on an eco panel heater a wall in a home

Heat or fire was one of the very first discoveries made by man that has remained a staple in life. Of course, technological advancements have transformed the way we use it but the principle has stayed the same.

After the invention of electricity, there was a considerable decline in the use of woods and cutting trees for fire. As a result, radiant heating became mainstream at this point. 

However, after the spike in the cost of electricity in the 1960s, radiators started gaining more popularity in the modern world. Recently, new designs of radiant heating systems mean they have made a comeback.

Radiant heating has been the answer to many construction solutions in recent years. It works on the simple principle of heat conduction and convection.

While floor and ceiling radiant heating system are quite common, some homeowners have uncertainty regarding if wall radiant heating is effective, or even a viable option.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about radiant heat in your home, from its potential installation in walls to how it works compared to other types of heating.

What is Radiant Heating?

Radiant heating is a term coined because it works on the concept of heat conduction through the environment to warm rooms. In practice, walls, panels, floors, or the ceiling can be used as the radiating unit.  

How Does Radiant Heating Work?

During construction, pipes are hidden beneath the radiator unit, preferably during the ongoing construction process. Large amounts of water are heated through a heating source and then continuously passed through the pipes. The water passing through the lines right below the radiating unit transfers heat to it, uniformly warming the room above. 

This process is useful because the heat can radiate through almost all types of surfaces and provide a comfortable level of heating, whether wood, tile, cement, ceramic, or even carpeted at the top.

Note that radiant heating will be the warmest when you’re closest to the heating surface or there is no obstacle between you and the surface. Hence, designing a radiant heating system is essential to ensure maximum efficiency.

Can You Install Radiant Heating On Walls? 

Radiant heating can be installed on floors and ceilings, so it should be no surprise that homeowners can also install it on walls. What does come as a surprise, however, is that it is the next best thing after a floor-to-ceiling heating system.

It is much more efficient than a simple ceiling heating system because of a glaringly obvious reason: heat always rises. 

When radiation units are placed on the ceiling, the heat will rise instead of moving downwards to warm the room. It means extra effort and energy will be consumed to get the same warmth and comfort as a wall or floor heating system.

Installing radiant heaters in walls isn’t just more energy-efficient and easier in terms of the labor force.

An eco panel heater mounted on the wall of a home above a desk
Courtesy of Venting Direct

While floor heating can be more extensive and provide better cooling, its installation is also complicated. On the other hand, radiant wall heating only requires the outer drywall to be removed so homeowners can install the heating panels. 

Why is Wall Radiant Heating an Eco-friendly Option?

Uniform Heating of Surfaces

The reason behind its increased efficiency is that heat increases the temperature of the inner side of the surface, which provides uniform outward heating. The uniform heating allows the establishment of a comfortable environment even at comparatively lower temperatures. 

Higher Energy Efficiency

On average, radiant heating is 10% more efficient than radiators. As the U.S. Department of Energy mentioned, it uses less fuel to heat the water in no time or has the ‘quickest response time of any heating system.’ 

Individual Control Panel

Homeowners can control the heating system of each room separately. When one room is not in use, the heating can be turned off to save energy.

Due to its immediate response time, people don’t hesitate twice before turning the heat off. As a result, the room heats minutes after turning the heating on, even after extended periods of disuse.  

Decreased Pollution

Since it works on the principle of heating the surface, which automatically heats the room’s atmosphere, there is no pathway for the outside air to come in. As a result, the indoor air remains clean and free of allergens, smoke, dust particles, or other pollutants. 

A radiant heating system is based on the water running through the pipes; hence it is noiseless, and there is no noise pollution. 

Other Advantages of Wall Radiant Heating

Apart from the various eco-friendly benefits of radiant wall heaters, these systems also offer some additional advantages.

Ease of Installation

Wall radiant heating is much less complicated to install than radiant floor heating. 

To install the floor radiant heating system in a house that has already been constructed, you must forcefully tear the floor and place the pipes and electrical cables carefully. The floor would then have to be replaced again. 

A radiant heating panel heater mounted low on the wall of a home

On the other hand, radiant wall heating only requires the outer drywall to be ripped and replaced after positioning the panels. As a result, drywall is much cheaper to replace and less time and labor-intensive. 

Variable Height Level of Radiant Heating Wall System 

The height at which radiation units are installed in the wall can vary. It can depend on many factors such as the height of your ceiling, furniture placement, etc. 

Suppose your ceiling averages 8-10 feet. Heating panels up to four feet would provide sufficient heating. For ceilings that are 15 feet and taller, the panels can also be raised to eight feet.

To promote maximum warmth, homeowners can also skip the installation of heating panels in places where furniture is placed, i.e., a portrait hanging on the wall. 

Cooling System

In summer, when the natural temperature reaches an all-time high, the hydronic radiant heating system can also be used as a cooling system. 

When hot air rises, the low ceiling temperature (due to cold water running in the pipes) would cool the air and bounce back downwards, lowering the room’s temperature.

The hydronic water system can work as a multi-purpose system. 

Increased Resale Value

If you install a radiant heating system, your house’s resale value immediately goes up by thousands of dollars. It sounds like a lot of work and investment in time and money initially. However, when you resell it, the return would be exponential and worth the effort. 

Wall Radiant Heating vs. Floor Radiant Heating

Wall and floor radiant heating work similarly; however, there is a slight difference in how they are constructed.

Floor heating consists of pipes fitted alongside electric cables underneath the floorboards. Water runs through the pipes and is immediately heated by the wires running beside them. 

Wall radiant heating systems have panels made of aluminum instead of pipes in the walls. The panels are heated and then conducted to warm your room. 

Drawbacks of Wall Radiant Heating 

Despite the many advantages, like most things, radiant wall heaters have their drawbacks as well.

Requires Effective Insulation

For radiant wall heating to work effectively, you must completely insulate your room to prevent the heat from leaking. Insufficient insulation would cause the heat to escape from the room continuously, and you will need extra energy to warm it. 

A carpenter installing plywood as insulation to prevent home heat loss

Limited Placement of Furniture

For the heating panels to work effectively, there should be a minimum obstruction between the walls and the target area.

It means that you should place no furniture in front of walls that contain heating panels, and you would be limited regarding what kind of furniture you want in a room and where you might want to place it. 

Any hanging items, such as pictures, must be carefully analyzed before being put up, so drilling holes or hammering nails into the wall don’t damage the panels or pipes. 

High Initial Cost

Although they require much less energy, radiant heating systems are expensive to install. Covering up the upfront payment cost may require a long time.

Difficulty in Accessing the System

Since the drywall hides the whole system, it isn’t easy to access. So if there is any problem or it requires repair, the drywall will need to be broken apart and replaced. 

The Bottom Line

Radiant heating is a system designed based on the conduction of heat. The heat is conducted through the surfaces of the room to provide you with much-needed warmth in the frosty weather. 

The quiet operation, energy efficiency, and exceptional comfort make this a highly comfortable and reliable form of indoor heating system. 

What a wall radiant heating system lacks in temperature control and heating makes up for in the other departments. The compact panels can fit into the walls easily, the cost of utility bills is greatly reduced, and you get warmth while staying clean and eco-friendly.

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