| Radiant Floor vs Baseboard Heating (2024)

In a climate with cold winters, few words are more positive to describe a home than warm, cozy, and snug. Achieving these images requires the best heating system for the right conditions. Many choices are available, and two of these are baseboard heating and radiant floor heating.

Baseboard heating is a hot trend for the coldest climates, providing a good choice for homes where the area experiences temperatures near or below freezing regularly. Radiant floor heating warms cold feet and heats a room evenly, eliminating cold corners. In the sections below, we will discuss the features of these heating systems in order to help you decide which is better for your home.

Heat Distribution

Radiant floor heating systems come in two varieties: a boiler-based hydronic system and an electric coil system. The heat source for a hydronic radiant floor system is a boiler centrally located in the home. The heat the boiler produces is transferred to PEX tubing carrying hot water beneath the home’s flooring. If electric power is used, heating coils are located beneath the floor instead. Electric systems are best used as an add-on in a specific room or area, such as in a small bathroom or near a vanity, whereas hydronic systems are intended to heat an entire house. Because the coils or tubing are spread throughout the room under the floor, the room is more evenly heated. However, the radiant system makes heating a cold room a slower process. Once the heat rises from the floor, the room will remain warm longer than with baseboard heat.

The heat in baseboard systems can be produced by a boiler or by electric elements in each baseboard unit. Baseboard units produce heat concentrated around the exterior walls of the home in order to provide a cushion of warm air between the frigid outdoors and the home’s interior. In order to maintain this warmth, baseboard heaters must be carefully spaced beneath each window and along exterior walls.

Most baseboard systems are controlled by thermostats in each room, allowing the homeowner to distribute heat only where it is needed. On the other hand, radiant floor systems are sometimes controlled by a central thermostat. A more expensive option can give control to each room.


Radiant floor heating 1 system installations are expensive. Before beginning, a professional should determine if a home’s foundation and subfloors will support the added weight. Radiant floor heating can’t be installed on existing flooring. This means that your flooring will need to be ripped up and replaced, making this type of improvement best when doing a full remodel of an existing home or building a new one.

Installation costs of electric baseboard heaters are less than hot water baseboard heating or radiant floor heating since each heater only needs access to electrical wiring. Even though a heating unit is needed around each window, the installation cost is still less than any of the alternatives.

A boiler-powered baseboard system is more expensive to install, but a retrofit installation of baseboard heaters is still less expensive and far less disruptive than radiant flooring because the existing floor covering can remain in place.

Homeowners will also need to realize the limitations that baseboard heating can put on furniture placement. An underfloor system lends itself better to creative furniture arrangements.

Floor Covering

You will have several considerations to make when choosing a flooring material to use with your radiant heat system. Non-insulating, man made floors such as tile or laminate will give you the best, most consistent heat. However, it is possible to use other materials like carpet or wood if you choose your flooring carefully. Choose a carpet with a high density, low R-value pad to help transmit the most heat, and install these rooms on a separate thermostat, as more energy will be required to heat the rooms through the carpeting. Look for very stable wood floors, such as engineered hardwood or quarter-sawn planks that are 3-inches or less in width to use with your radiant heat system. Because the heat may dry out the floor, using softwoods or wide planks may cause the floors to cup or buckle over time.

You can use baseboard heaters with any type of flooring, including carpeting and hardwood, without worrying about the source.


Radiant floor heating is a more expensive option because of the labor needed to install the system and ensure it is properly anchored to the existing subfloor. Further, the need for either a radiant x-block installed to your existing hot water heater or a full boiler system for larger projects will increase costs. A high-efficiency boiler system costs on average $4,000 along with a hot water heater or x-block that run between $1,000 and $3,000. The installation cost will vary depending on the amount of labor required. Expect to pay between $50 and $70 an hour for installation. On average, hydronic radiant heating systems cost between $6,000 and $14,000. If you’re installing an electric system in a small space like a bathroom, costs average around $700.

Buying and installing electric baseboard heaters in a home will cost between $472 and $788 each for quality, long-lasting units. For a three-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot home with six windows, this makes the total between $3,500 and $5,500. The cost for a boiler-based system is more because of the cost of the boiler and piping, which are in addition to the individual units. A homeowner can expect to pay $6,000 to $8,000 for the same-sized home, including materials and installation.

Energy Efficiency

Because a boiler can be powered by a variety of sources, the homeowner can choose the most efficient fuel in the part of the country where the home is located. Also, a boiler-based system can be highly efficient depending on the type of boiler. A combination, condensing, or wood-burning boiler gives the best efficiency ratings.

Heat rises from the floor in radiant floor systems, which means the lower part of the room where people reside is heated, allowing the residents to keep the thermostat lower. Scientific American quotes TLC’s Green Living Guide to say that this system is a better choice for a home with smaller rooms and lower ceilings. Its day-to-day efficiency may not compete with other types of heating in a large, open home.

Baseboard heating is most effective in rooms with large windows in cold climates, but the cost of running an electric unit is much higher. Baseboard heating works most efficiently in spaces from 50 to 200 square feet. In addition, electric units will produce more heat, more quickly, which makes it a better choice if the homeowner wants to heat a room rapidly but not constantly. On the other hand, electric baseboard heaters turn on and off using a thermostat. Hot water baseboard units give a constant flow of warmth similar to radiant floor heating.


Maintaining a hydronic radiant floor 1 system requires regular monitoring by a professional for the best results. Leaks between the boiler and an underfloor system are not common, but they can occur. If copper pipes are used, the leak can be repaired. However, steel pipes must be replaced. A thorough inspection of the system should be done yearly for older systems or every three years for newer systems. With regular professional maintenance, a system can last for several decades.

Electric baseboard heaters, on the other hand, need very little maintenance beyond keeping them free of household dust. The better systems come with a 10-year warranty. Hot water baseboard units will need the same regular maintenance as hydronic radiant floor systems.

Resale Value

Hydronic radiant floor heating may increase a home’s resale value. This should be carefully researched in your local real estate market, however, since the installation of a system is so expensive. The expense may not pay off when the home sells. Baseboard heating does not affect the resale value of the home.


Radiant floor systems have the advantage of being completely silent. Historically, electric and hot water baseboard systems created unpleasant popping and humming noises, though modern higher-quality models are much quieter.


Radiant floor systems and hydronic baseboard systems are the preferred choices for allergies since they are closed systems. No allergens or other irritants will be circulated during the heating cycle. | Radiant Floor vs Baseboard Heating (2024)

FAQs | Radiant Floor vs Baseboard Heating? ›

Arguably its No. 1 advantage is its energy efficiency. Electric floor heating systems are more efficient than baseboard heaters and even forced-air heating systems. In fact, they are nearly 100 percent energy efficient.

Is in floor heating more efficient than baseboard? ›

Arguably its No. 1 advantage is its energy efficiency. Electric floor heating systems are more efficient than baseboard heaters and even forced-air heating systems. In fact, they are nearly 100 percent energy efficient.

What is better than baseboard heaters? ›

Ductless heat pumps/mini split systems are one of the top alternatives to baseboard heaters if you're looking for the energy efficiency of electric heat but want to avoid the drawbacks listed above. A ductless mini split provides all the benefits of zoned climate control, and doesn't require ductwork.

What is the best heated floor option? ›

Porcelain and ceramic tile are widely regarded as the best choice for radiant floor heating. These tiles are thin and conduct heat extremely well. This reduces the energy (and time) needed to warm up a room. Tile will also retain the heat longer than other types of flooring, increasing your efficiency even more.

Is radiant heat cheaper than baseboard? ›

2. Installation cost: With baseboard heating, the cost of installation is much lower for electric systems compared to water-based systems. In fact, electric baseboard heaters cost significantly less than radiant floor heating systems.

What is the downside of baseboard heating? ›

Baseboard Heater Cons

Expensive to operate: Expect higher utility bills than with forced air through an HVAC system. Safety hazard: Electric baseboard heaters can get extremely hot. Without proper maintenance and care, they can become a fire hazard. To prevent fire, keep furniture and curtains at least six inches away.

What is the most economical way to heat floor? ›

Hydronic radiant floor heating, which conducts heat by running hot water through tubing embedded in concrete or fixed under a wooden subfloor, is the most cost-effective whole-house subfloor heating option and commonly used in cold climates.

Is baseboard heating obsolete? ›

While this heating solution was once the standard, it has now become outdated and does not offer the modern comforts or efficiency that an HVAC system can provide. In all fairness, there are some advantages to using baseboard heating.

Is it worth upgrading baseboard heaters? ›

Replacing your electric baseboard heaters with things like heating ducts or radiant heating may be a significant up-front expense, but you could save as much as 50 percent on your energy bill during the winter months.

Does baseboard heat use a lot of electricity? ›

If you rely mostly on electric baseboard heaters to heat your home, they probably make up a big part of your annual electricity bill – sometimes as much as 44%. However, there are plenty of ways to maximize the efficiency of your baseboard heaters to cut down your winter heating costs.

Do heated floors increase electric bill? ›

If you've ever wondered, “Do heated floors use a lot of electricity?”, the answer is: less than you would think. In reality, a radiant heating system for a small bathroom uses about the same amount of energy as a freezer.

Are heated floors worth it? ›

Heated floors are 25% more energy efficient than traditional HVAC as you don't need to heat the entire home, just a small area. With more energy-efficient heating, you can drastically cut back on your heating bills and in addition, heated floors can warm up your bathroom much quicker than traditional HVAC.

Do heated floors cost a lot to run? ›

Hydronic or water-based radiant heated flooring can run you $7 to $22 per square foot. Electric-based radiant floor heating can cost between $8 to $15 per square foot. Both range in cost from $1.50 to $7 per day to run.

What is the downside of radiant heat? ›

Need for professional installation: Radiant heating systems require professional installation, and improper installation can lead to issues such as leaks or uneven heat distribution that can cause cold spots in your home.

What is the cheapest way to do radiant floor heating? ›

Loose cable is by far the cheapest way to heat a floor and it's just as effective as the other systems. The drawback of loose cable is installation time; you have to position the cable in a serpentine pattern, fasten it with lots of hot glue or staples, and then “embed” it.

Can radiant floor heating heat an entire house? ›

Can radiant floor heating heat an entire house? We're happy to say that it absolutely can, in the right scenario, which is an exciting prospect, especially considering radiant heat's benefits of no air blowing (which reduces indoor allergies) and soothing whole-room comfort (no cold air pockets in your room).

Is it OK to have furniture against baseboard heaters? ›

Space in Front of Baseboard Heaters

You can place a couch or chair in front of a heater, but it must be at least a foot away. Placing furniture closer than that creates a potential fire hazard, and it can greatly diminish the heater's performance by restricting airflow to and from the heater.

How do you keep your house warm with baseboard heat? ›

Tips for Improving Your Baseboard Heater's Efficiency
  1. Decrease Drafts. If your home is rather drafty, your baseboard heaters may be overcompensating to counteract the cold air that is regularly let in. ...
  2. Adjust Your Thermostat. ...
  3. Clean Baseboard Heaters Regularly. ...
  4. Choose the Right Cover.

How often should baseboard heaters be replaced? ›

Electric baseboard heaters have an average life expectancy of about 20 years. However, as with most things, they can last much longer with proper maintenance.

Should you turn off underfloor heating in the summer? ›

Underfloor heating can be turned off in the summer months to preserve energy and maximise comfort. However, if you own a water-based underfloor heating solution, be sure to switch the underfloor heating on for 15-20 minutes every couple of weeks to identify any faults and prevent the system from sticking.

Should I replace baseboard heat with forced air? ›

However, forced air systems will save you resources over time and can work more efficiently to keep your home at your preferred temperature. Changing baseboard heat to forced air is a worthwhile investment for those looking to stay comfortable while saving energy and money.

Why are baseboard heaters so inefficient? ›

Since Electric Baseboard Units circulate heated air by convection, not by radiant heating or a fan blowing air, it is a very slow and gentle airflow. Cobwebs and dust that collect on the tiny metal fins can restrict heating by more than 80%.

Why does baseboard heat cost so much? ›

Is baseboard heating expensive? In general, electric baseboard heaters use more electricity than an electric heat pump. This means higher electric bills, especially in the coldest winter months when they're working overtime to keep your home warm.

How to reduce electric bill with baseboard heat? ›

7 Ways to Bring Down Your Baseboard Heating Electric Bill
  1. Keep your heater sparkly clean. Dust buildup on your baseboard heater will block the heat and keep it from escaping properly. ...
  2. Turn it down! ...
  3. Calibrate. ...
  4. Insulate. ...
  5. Contact the power company. ...
  6. Run appliances at night. ...
  7. Give your ceiling fan a whirl.
Mar 26, 2015

What type of baseboard heater is the most efficient? ›

Hydronic baseboard heaters radiate heat heated water and are the most efficient form of heating and costs significantly less than electric. Electric heaters, generate and maintain their temperature through electricity.

How much does it cost to remove baseboard heating? ›

Remember that to replace baseboard heating with central AC, you'll need to remove the baseboard heating system first. It'll cost $120 to $150 extra per unit to remove the old system before you can install the new one.

Are wall heaters better than baseboard? ›

Wall heaters are great in rooms that you want to heat up fast. The fan helps circulate air through the room, while baseboards rely just on the natural convection process. Although all electric heat is 100 percent efficient, you can see some energy savings with a wall heater because it takes less time to heat a room.

How many square feet can an electric baseboard heater heat? ›

The wattage information is specified on the heater packaging and labeling. Typically, a 1,500 watt/240-volt unit can heat a 150 to 175 square-foot room.

What is the life expectancy of heated floors? ›

Radiant floor heating systems do not require any maintenance. Once they are installed, they will last for 20+ years without any issues.

Do heated floors warm a room? ›

Using thermal radiation and electromagnetic waves, a radiant floor heating system warms up a room by heating the floor directly rather than warming the air in the room. Radiant systems heat the floor, and that heat radiates up and is absorbed by other objects in the room, helping to warm the entire space efficiently.

Do heated floors help warm a room? ›

By heating the floor rather than the surrounding air, they provide indirect, diffused heat that radiates from the floor up. This heat is absorbed by surrounding objects, and they in turn help to warm the entire room.

Can you put rugs on heated floors? ›

The good news is that many rugs are suitable to use with warm water underfloor heating. However, adding a rug on top of a heated floor can restrict the amount of heat that passes from the floor into the room.

Do heated floors leak? ›

Modern radiant floor heating is built to resist leaks because they are fixed systems that do not permit oxygen to enter and degrade the piping. But leaks can still occur.

What are the pros and cons of in floor heating? ›

Pros and Cons of Radiant Heat
  • Uniform heating. The biggest benefit of floor-heating systems is their ability to uniformly heat a room and floor. ...
  • No maintenance. Radiant floor heating systems do not require any maintenance. ...
  • No noise. ...
  • Non-allergenic. ...
  • Energy efficient. ...
  • Easy to install.
Jun 29, 2022

Can you put heated floor under vinyl plank? ›

In short, vinyl plank floors and radiant heating systems work exceptionally well together. There's no risk of damage, nor will you risk voiding your warranty. All you need to do is ensure that your heating system on average, won't exceed 80-85°F, as this is usually the safe temperature limit for vinyl plank flooring.

Is it cheaper to keep underfloor heating on all day? ›

Basically, your home will heat up to a comfortable temperature faster. So, whilst it won't necessarily be cheaper to leave your underfloor heating on for a sustained period initially, it could lead to long-term savings.

Is heated flooring cheaper than central heating? ›

The cost of running underfloor heating vs radiators

Underfloor heating is more eco friendly than using radiators and uses less energy, meaning they cost much less in the long run!

What is the problem with radiant floor heating? ›

The main cause of problems with in-floor radiant heating systems is a defect in the wall thermostat. When your thermostat is defective, it will keep the heating from working properly. Thermostats that fail to close properly cause the room to be cold at all times.

How often do heated floors fail? ›

This plastic tubing can last between 30-50 years. However, since water must be heated and travel through the system, a boiler and a pump are also required. You can expect a boiler to last 15-20 years, but a pump may fail after ten years.

Is it safe to leave radiant heater on all night? ›

The best way to prevent a fire is to never leave a space heater running in a room unattended—that way, if anything does go wrong, you can take action quickly. If you have kids or pets that could knock a heater over or drape fabric on it, keep a very close eye on its operation.

Do you need HVAC with radiant floor heating? ›

A radiant floor heating system only addresses your heating needs. You will also need an air cooling system. Though radiant cooling systems are available, they are impractical and usually not cost-effective to install.

Is radiant floor heating more efficient than baseboard? ›

Radiant heating has a number of advantages. It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because it eliminates duct losses. People with allergies often prefer radiant heat because it doesn't distribute allergens like forced air systems can.

How do you cool a house with radiant floor heating? ›

Gas or oil-fired radiant heating systems that require cooling can use super efficient mini-split systems for spot cooling or, again, go to a whole house cooling system (expensive). A better option is to use a geothermal or air-to-water hydronic heat pump that generates chilled water that can be used for cooling.

What is the best temperature for radiant floor heat? ›

Radiant-floor heating systems typically use water temperatures of 85-140°F (30-60°C), compared with baseboard hydronic systems that typically operate at 130-160°F (55-70°C). At these operating temperatures, boiler life can exceed 45 years, according to information from DOE.

Is radiant heat better on ceiling or floor? ›

The heat transfer through convection is much lower with ceiling heating than with underfloor heating. This leads to less dust turbulence and fewer allergens in the room air. This is another reason why more and more hospitals are opting for heating and cooling ceilings.

What is the best heat source for radiant floor heating? ›

Solar energy is a good heat source for radiant floors because solar thermal collectors are very efficient at supplying the lower water temperatures that such systems require.

Is under floor heating more efficient? ›

Underfloor heating is a cleaner, smarter way to heat your home. Using radiant heat technology, UFH is more energy-efficient than other heating methods by gently warming the people and objects in the room directly, from the ground up.

Do heated floors use a lot of electricity? ›

If you've ever wondered, “Do heated floors use a lot of electricity?”, the answer is: less than you would think. In reality, a radiant heating system for a small bathroom uses about the same amount of energy as a freezer.

Are heated floors expensive to run? ›

Heated flooring is expensive to install. But in the long run, it's a luxury that can save money. Radiant heating systems cost $1-5 per day to run, compared to an average $20 for traditional heating systems.

Is in floor heating more efficient than a furnace? ›

Although the upfront cost of radiant in-floor heating is higher than that of a forced-air system, you'll save money in the long run since radiant heating is more energy efficient. Plus, it can be installed beneath any type of flooring and doesn't take up nearly as much space as a furnace or heat pump.

What is the life expectancy of underfloor heating? ›

How long will an underfloor heating system last? The pipes used for underfloor heating must have a projected lifespan of 50 years, in accordance with industry standard DIN 4726; however over 100 years is entirely possible.

Is it cheaper to run underfloor heating all the time? ›

Basically, your home will heat up to a comfortable temperature faster. So, whilst it won't necessarily be cheaper to leave your underfloor heating on for a sustained period initially, it could lead to long-term savings.

What is the cheapest way to run underfloor heating? ›

What's the Cheapest Type of Underfloor Heating? The most cost-effective to install is electric, but in terms of long-term value, the best value is found in a wet system as it's cheaper to run.

Is it bad to leave heated floors on all the time? ›

Leaving your underfloor heating system switched on all day during particularly cold seasons won't cause any harm – in fact, it's not a bad idea. Leaving your heating on will encourage faster efficiency and warming up times, meaning that you are less likely to feel chilly for longer.

Is it bad to leave heated floors on? ›

Though we advise keeping it on at all times during the coldest parts of winter, it doesn't need to be at a consistently high temperature. Keep it on at a reduced heat. You'll find when you do need to raise the temperature, it will go up to a comfortable level much more quickly.

Can heated floors go under carpet? ›

This is one of the most common questions we're asked! Many people assume that underfloor heating only works with hard flooring such as tiles and laminate, but carpet is also a suitable floor covering choice for underfloor heating.

Can you put rugs over radiant floor heating? ›

Avoid placing thick mats, rugs and floor level furniture on your heated floor, specifically in the area where the sensor probe is located. Mats, rugs, and level furniture restrict the transfer of heat away from the cables and result in the floor area beneath them being warmer than other areas.

Are heated floors a good investment? ›

Energy Efficiency

Since the heat is evenly distributed, radiant heat is known to provide an average savings of 15% on heating bills. Due to its efficiency, not only will you wake up to toasty floors, a warm and comfortable environment, but you will also save money in the long-run. That sounds like a win-win situation.

Does in floor heating fail easily? ›

Although durable, the heating cable in an electric system can become faulty. This could be due to corrosion or something as simple as cracked tiles. In addition, hydronic systems are known to experience airlock problems and zone valve or pump failure.

Can you heat a whole house with in floor heating? ›


The short answer to “Can you heat your entire home with radiant floor heating”? is yes. In theory, as long as you have a floor, you can utilize radiant floor heating. The heating system goes right into the floor, heating water or using electricity in an infrastructure of pipes.


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