The basics on radiant heat systems and heat pumps

July 27, 2015

Radiant heating systems are an efficient way to keep your home at the perfect temperature. After you learn these basics, you'll can get the most out of your heating system, and even save some money.

The basics on radiant heat systems and heat pumps

Radiant heat systems

  • With no moving parts and no visible heat outlets, a radiant system usually has few problems and requires little maintenance, but it's boiler will still need an annual checkup.
  • Never drill or poke holes in a floor, wall or ceiling that contains electric cables or water lines. If a section stops producing heat, call for repair.
  • If a water line leaks, shut off the water where it exits the boiler and call for repair.
  • If an electrical radiant system fails, check your main service panel for a tripped circuit breaker.

Heat pumps

  • A heat pump looks and works much like a central air conditioner, including an outdoor coil and compressor connected to a coil outdoors.
  • In winter, the outdoor unit extracts heat from air and delivers it to the indoor coil, where it's carried throughout the house by a forced-air system.
  • In summer, the process is reversed, and the heat pump cools, just like a central air conditioner.
  • As a heating unit, a heat pump is effective only when the outdoor temperature is moderately cold. When it gets too cold for a unit to work efficiently, it automatically switches to a another heating source, like a costly electric heating element.
  • As a rule, don't turn down the thermostat at night. The system will only have to switch to more expensive supplemental heating to warm the house in the morning.
  • If your system seems inefficient or too expensive to run, consider adding space heaters or even installing a different heating system.

Troubleshooting a heat pump

Most of the problems you are likely to encounter with a heat pump are the same as the ones you would have with a central air conditioner. Here are some to look out for:

  • If a thick, persistent frost forms on the outdoor coil, clean the coil and remove any obstructions, such as leaves. Change the filter indoors.
  • If ice forms on the coil and the unit doesn't automatically defrost, switch the thermostat to cooling mode for 10 minutes before calling for service.
  • If your heat turns on and off too frequently, check and clean the thermostat. Also check for a clogged filter and outdoor obstructions
  • If you smell an odour, check for a clogged drip pan on the indoor unit. Make sure it can drain freely.

The key to a properly working radiant heating system or heat pump is routine maintenance. By knowing the signs and learning how to fix some of the easier problems, you could get all the advantages of these heating options and save some money along the way.

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