Radiant Heating – Electric In-Floor and Wall/Ceiling Panel Systems
Electric cable or wires are used in an electric radiant heating system—either by embedding the wires in the floor or in panels that attach to the ceiling or wall. The radiant energy emitted by the floor, wall or ceiling will warm objects and people in its path. In other words, a heated ceiling will warm the floor, walls and all objects in between.
In-floor systems are installed similarly to hydronic in-floor heating in that the electric cables are embedded in a thick or thin slab of concrete or gypsum, sandwiched between two pieces of plywood, or fastened to the underside of the subfloor. The electric wiring can be either cables coated with electrical insulation or fabric mats with the cables woven into them. Electric in-floor systems generally are only cost-effective though if used with a large “thermal mass” such as a thick concrete slab and with time-of-use electric rates. In those instances, the slab can be heated during low electric rate periods and the stored heat can provide heat over a longer period.
Another option is radiant panels, aluminum panels with electric elements embedded in the panel. The panels are mounted on either the ceiling or walls in a sufficiently large area—the larger the area, the lower the actual surface temperature of the panels required. The electric cables can also be embedded directly into the ceiling itself.
In areas with high electric rates, these systems can be expensive to operate, but may be an acceptable option for room additions. Electric panel systems can be zoned by room and feature a quick response time, allowing for temperature turn-down when the room is not in use. Ceiling systems can be less comfortable since they heat from top down, leaving the lower extremities cooler than the head and shoulders. The closer building occupants are to the panels, the greater the comfort.