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Air Flow in Winter

radiant heating
Photo by Russell Kaye

We like the radiant floor heat in our six-year-old home, except for one thing: There's no air movement. In the summer, we can open windows or run our central air conditioner. How can we get the air circulating in the winter? –Joan Scheider, Plover, WIsc.


Richard Trethewey replies: True, there's very little air movement with radiant heat, but most people consider that to be a plus in the heating season. Moving air makes us feel cooler, which explains why we like breezes in summer and avoid them in winter.
I suspect it's not the air's stillness that's giving you problems but its staleness. A tightly built house traps indoor pollutants from cooking, cleaning, pets, and off-gassing furnishings, and air quality suffers as a result.
In your case, the fix might be as simple as turning on your AC system's fan. Most thermostats have a "fan only" setting, independent of the compressor. Running the fan will circulate air through the ducts, and if your system is equipped with a high-quality electronic or media-type filter, it will also sift out dust, cooking odors, and allergens. You can run the fan all the time if you want. Some people turn it on only at night when they're snuggled in bed and won't feel the slight chill of the circulating air.
If the fan doesn't do the trick, you may want to look into installing a heat exchanger, a device that pulls in fresh outside air as it exhausts stale indoor air, and uses the latter to warm up the former. It's a lot better than opening the windows in the dead of winter.


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