Radiant vs. Convection vs. Forced-Air Heating

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

Dimplex Indoor/Outdoor Heater

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.

Radiant heaters include patio heaters, portable heaters, and space heaters. 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
Dimplex Baseboard Heater

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

Wall Register/Grille

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.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, furnaces may use a furnace, heat pump, or active solar heating. 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!

Recommended Reading

The most energy-efficient heater depends on the specific space you wish to heat. Types of heater systems include electric, kerosene, propane, oil-filled and hydronic, pellet, and natural gas.

Heaters come in a variety of options and sizes, so how do you find the right one for your space? Read our guide to learn the differences between each type of eater and the proper applications for each.

If you run a restaurant or other business that uses an outdoor seating area, you can use an outdoor patio heater to keep the space usable in the winter. Options for patio heaters include electric, natural gas, and propane.

An underfloor heating system not only keeps your feet warm in the winter, but it also heats your room to a uniform temperature. These heaters come in the form of either heating cable mats or cable systems, and can be either electric or hydronic.

Avery Dietzen
Avery Dietzen

Originally from Wisconsin, Avery earned her degree in English before making the trip down to the Atlanta, GA area. Writer by day, reader by night, she prides herself on having a creative outlook and tries to instill that in everything she writes. As a content writer for HomElectrical, she uses her skills to share tips and tricks about lighting, HVAC, and going green. If she’s not writing, she’s reading, painting, hanging out with her dog, or spending time with family and friends.

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