What are Radiant Systems?

Anna B. Smith

Radiant systems are systems in which energy is passed from one primary source to nearby objects. This natural property of electromagnetic energy is utilized by many home heating systems, such as infrared heaters, radiant floor heaters, and solar panels. The energy generated through this type of radiation is both highly efficient and very low in cost when used over an extended period of time.

Solar panels use the technology of radiant systems to generate energy.
Solar panels use the technology of radiant systems to generate energy.

Radiant energy is created by electromagnetic waves, which are released from a primary source. This energy travels as radiation from one source to nearby objects and is often invisible to the human eye. The sun warms the earth and other planets in the solar system using radiant energy. Radiant systems are popular in the manufacturing industry to heat buildings and homes. The heat created by these systems is efficient, in that it is sustainable by the objects which receive the radiation, and it can be generated without burning limited fossil fuels or costly electricity.

The most common application of radiant energy in a home heating system is through use of an infrared heater. These heaters use infrared light, which is not in the spectrum of light visible to the human eye, to transmit energy from the heat source to nearby objects. The objects in the room with the heater are then warmed, instead of warming the air around them. This prevents the creation of hot and cold air pockets, and creates an overall room air temperature that is uniform from floor to ceiling.

Floor heating radiant systems can be installed throughout a home to improve indoor air temperatures and lower energy costs. This type of infrastructure uses coils that are placed underneath traditional flooring surfaces, such as tile and hardwood. The system may be electronic or hydronic, which uses heated water that is pumped through the coils and warms the floor. The heat can travel through the floor to any other object it touches. The air in the room is then warmed from the floor to the ceiling and sustained without exhaustive energy outputs.

Solar panels also use the technology of radiant systems to generate energy. These panels, which may be referred to as photovoltaic, absorb and store radiation from the sun. This energy is then redirected to any object to which the panels are connected, such as appliances, water heaters, and lighting systems. Other forms of radiant energy include x-rays, gamma rays, light, radio waves, and ultraviolet rays.

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