Radiant energy is how human beings experience heat. Think of the warm sun on a spring day and imagine how that heat feels. While not as intense a heat source, radiant floors provide a similar experience.
Radiant floors require less energy to heat a home because they simply feel warmer. With a radiant floor, 65 degrees feels as comfortable as an air temperature of 70 degrees, but that incremental difference is significant. As the difference in temperature between outside and inside becomes greater, progressively more energy is required to maintain that indoor temperature. A five-degree difference from 65 to 70 degrees can save more energy than a fifteen-degree difference at a lower temperature.
Interestingly, radiant floors feel less noticeable in a high-performance home because the home holds the heat much better, and the difference between the temperature of the air and the temperature of the floor is more consistent.
Radiant floors are a great green building technology for improving the comfort of your home. They can be retrofitted into old houses or installed in new houses embedded in lightweight concrete or on specially designed subfloors. While radiant floors can be expensive to install, most homeowners who have them would never go back to forced-air heating.