Forced Air vs. Radiant Heat: Pros and Cons

The way you heat your home has a big impact on how much you pay to stay warm – and how warm you feel in your space. But how do you choose among your many options if you’re planning to install a heating system for your newly-built or renovated Maryland home?

In this weeks blog, we will examine the pros and cons of two common heating system choices: “forced air” and radiant heat.

Forced Air

A forced air heating system uses air heated by a furnace to warm the living space. Common forced air heating systems burn natural gas, heating oil, or propane to heat a volume of air, which is then forced through ductwork using fans that deliver heat to registers (vents) in each room of the house.


  • Typically the most sensible choice if you have existing ductwork
  • Heated air from vents can increase the perception of warmth in a cold room
  • Can be economical if installed as an all-in-one solution with cooling equipment (a complete HVAC system)
  • Can be adapted to incorporate heating zones using a zone controller for increased efficiency
  • Can be combined with humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, etc. for a whole-house indoor air quality solution


  • Heat loss due to air leaks in the duct work is a significant problem, especially if the ducts pass through cold attics or basements
  • If your home does not have air ducts, you need to have them installed to use a forced air system or central heating system, which can be costly
  • Air quality in homes with forced air systems can suffer in several ways:
    • Conditions inside the ductwork can lead to mold or other microorganism growth, which can be distributed by forced air into the rooms of your home
    • Blowing air from vents can distribute dust and other allergens
  • Vents can limit your options for furniture placement if you want to maximize airflow

Radiant floor heating

Radiant floor heating warms the objects and people in the room rather than the air around them. The heat is produced by electricity, hot water or air, which makes direct contact with the surface on which you choose to install your system; that heat is then transferred to people and objects in the room via infrared radiation. In most cases, radiant heating systems are installed beneath flooring.


  • Radiant heat eliminates the inefficient heat loss created by rising heat, as warmth is not distributed through the air; radiant heat systems are typically about 15 percent more efficient than other heating systems.
  • Radiant systems improve air quality, since they don’t push allergens throughout the house and don’t offer microorganisms a place to grow.
  • Radiant heating systems also offer more flexibility in furniture placement, since you will not have to content with blocking vents.


  • Radiant heating is installed beneath the floor, which makes it significantly harder to access the heating elements for repairs or maintenance.
  • The cost of installing a radiant heating system is typically higher than forced air; installation of a radiant floor typically also takes longer to complete.
  • Radiant heating systems increase the height of the floor by up to half an inch, in case vertical space is a factor.

The bottom line

When it comes to heating your Maryland home, there are many great options to choose from; the best one depends on your home, budget, and preferences. Whatever path to cozy comfort you choose, be sure to have your heating system installed by experienced pros who will give you a detailed, written estimate on the work to come – like the one you will get from the licensed, bonded pros at Carroll Home Services.

Not sure what kind of heating system is right for you? We can help! Contact a Carroll heating system expert today to find out more, or to get a FREE, no obligation estimate on heating equipment for your Maryland home.

For everything you need in home heating, trust the pros at Carroll Home Services – keeping Maryland homes warm for more than a century! Contact us to get started today!