The Electric Alternative
Generally, electric radiant—either cables installed in the floor or thin mats of resistance wire mounted on fiberglass netting—is retrofitted in single rooms rather than whole homes. It's faster and less expensive to install, and it makes a good retrofit for a bathroom, say, or a small dressing room. But TOH's Richard Trethewey doesn't recommend electric radiant for larger spaces, like a kitchen or a finished basement. "With the high cost per kilowatt-hour, it isn't a good principal heating source—particularly in cold climates," says Richard. "Hydronic radiant is so efficient because it uses water to transfer heat throughout the building. And water is the ultimate transfer medium. Period."

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