If you search online for information about "radiant panel heating" you’ll quickly discover the same phrase is used to describe three completely different heating systems.
To help you zero in on what you’re looking for, I’ve compiled a list of the systems that can be described as radiant panel heating and a brief explanation of how they work.
Electric Radiant Ceiling Panels
Radiant ceiling panels are about 1 inch thick, and range in size from 2’x 2’ to 2’ x 8’. They are textured to look like the ceiling and can be painted to match the room’s decor with any quality water based acrylic paint.
The simple design and easy installation of electric ceiling panels lends itself well to remodeling or retrofit applications.
The panels operate at 150-170 degrees F and radiate heat to objects and people in the room. The panel itself reaches operating temperature in only three to five minutes.
The advantage is heating only the room(s) you occupy with the flick of a switch.
Radiant Floor Panels
In this case you’re looking for pre-cut modular floor panels that incorporate PEX tubing to provide radiant in floor heating.
In floor radiant heating systems are low mass, modular board underlayment systems. Instead of embedding the hot water tubing in concrete, it's laid in the grooves of pre-cut wood panels.
The low thermal mass of wood, as opposed to concrete, allows for faster heat up times and is more responsive to on-demand heating. Modular in floor heating is ideal for remodeling or new construction projects.
What makes this product difficult to find on the internet is the manufacturers don’t describe their systems in generic terms such as floor panel heating or in floor heating on their websites so none of these terms show up in the search results.
If you want specific information about this type of system you need to know the brand name.
Popular brand names for this type of radiant system are InfloorBoard, WarmBoard, and Quik Trak by Wisbro.
Radiant Panel Baseboard Heating
The old fashioned, conspicuous, rust prone heaters of bygone days have been replaced with décor friendly panels less than 1" wide that closely resemble the look of baseboard trim.
The baseboard panels come in various sizes ranging from 18 inches to 8 1/2 feet. Attached to the back of each panel are two copper lined aluminum tubes. One supplies the heated water and the other returns it to the boiler for reheating.
The panels snap into brackets screwed into the wall and are connected with PEX tubing to form a single loop for each room. However, larger spaces may require more than one loop.
Filler panels are installed in the gaps between the heating panels to give finished product the look of traditional baseboard trim.
Radiant Panel Heating Cost Comparison
As far the cost for each type of system, installation of radiant ceiling panels typically costs between $1.25 and $1.50 per square foot of heated space.
A radiant panel baseboard installation costs around $7.00 per square foot. This includes the heating panels, tubing, manifold, pump, etc. – everything but the boiler or water heater.
The installation cost for in floor panel heating is more difficult to nail down. For one thing some in floor panels double as the sub floor which makes them more expensive than those installed over the sub floor.
The other problem is manufacturers are reluctant to quote a price unless they have all the particulars. That being said, the WarmBoard system, which includes the sub floor, sells for around $250 for a 4’ x 8’ sheet.