Radiant vs. Convection vs. Forced-Air Heating

By Avery Dietzen on 11/20/2020

Having a heater that fits your space can make all the difference. But with so many options, it can be hard to know which one works best in your home. Understanding the different methods of heating can help you choose the heater that works best for you.

What is the difference between heating methods?

Some of the most common methods of heating a home include radiant, convection, and forced-air heating systems.


                        Radiant Heating

Radiant heaters include patio heaters, portable heaters, and space heaters. Radiant heaters use infrared radiation to transfer heat from the source directly to the people and objects in the room. These heatwaves are undeterred by air currents, meaning an infrared radiant heater does not waste energy heating the air.

For example, sitting around a campfire. The fire warms you, but not the surrounding air. A radiant heater works the same way.

Use radiant heaters in open, outdoor, or drafty locations that need short-term heat. Radiant heaters can work well in patios, garages, or workshops. Radiant heat also functions as an effective underfloor heating method for bathrooms and bedrooms.



  • No air circulation to move around allergens and dust
  • Saves energy by not heating the air
  • Quiet
  • Does not heat the entire room
  • Need direct line of sight to heat the person or object
  • Need close proximity to heater to feel heat


                        Convection Heating

Convection heaters offer indirect heat. This means they heat the air surrounding the person or object instead of the object itself.

Convection heaters take in cool air surrounding the heater and pass it over a heating element until warmed. The heater then circulates the warm air back into the room. This creates a convection current where the warm air rises and the cooler air drops, allowing it to be warmed by the heater.

Convection heating works efficiently in enclosed rooms to avoid heat loss from drafts or open doors. Use them in rooms that need long-term heat. Consider convection heating for living rooms and kitchens.

Convection heaters include baseboard heaters, space heaters, furnaces, radiators, and wall heaters.



  • Maintains heat for extended periods of time
  • Heats larger areas
  • Variety of heater options
  • Cold spots
  • Slow heating
  • Heat loss


                        Forced-Air Heating

Most homes use forced-air systems, making them one of the most common types. They employ a furnace or heat pump to warm the air and use ductwork to move the air throughout the house. This central heating system provides a form of direct heat.

Furnaces can use natural gas, propane, oil, or electricity to function. Forced air systems work to heat multiple rooms and floors at a time. Place the furnace in a central location to optimize air distribution.



  • Heating and cooling capabilities
  • Air filter removes allergens and dust
  • Circulates air
  • Heat loss through ducts
  • Noisy
  • Requires regular maintenance


Stay warm this winter with convection and radiant heaters at HomElectrical!


Related Blogs: