Is In-floor heating worth the cost vs forced air?

Is In-Floor Heating Worth the Cost?

The cost savings of building a house with in-floor heating versus forced air can vary on several factors. You have to consider the size of the house, what climate the house is located in, how well insulated the house is, and the cost of utilities in the area. You also have to differentiate between the cost of installation versus the cost of operating. With all these things to consider, you may ask yourself if in-floor heating is worth the cost.

Let’s take a look at them one by one:

  1. In-Floor Heating Installation Cost: In-floor heating systems typically have similar to higher upfront costs compared to forced air systems. Installation involves laying down PEX tubing which is layered between insulation and flooring (usually concrete). Larger spaces will require more tubing, increasing the cost of material. Additionally, if you’re placing in-floor heating in a new build, it will typically be an easier installation. While retrofitting an existing space can be more challenging and increase in costs due to floor modifications. 
  2. Forced Air Installation Cost: Forced air heating systems typically have a lower upfront cost to install. These systems use ductwork to distribute the warm air. The complexity of the ductwork, the type of furnace used, and the size of the house all factor into the cost of installation. On average, the cost of a forced air system is around $2,500 – $8,000 for a standard system, but can vary by geography.

Looking at calculating installation for each system is important. Whether you’re installing the system yourself or require a professional, costs can vary

  1. In-Floor Heating Operation Cost: In-floor heat is known for its energy efficiency and its ability to provide an even, radiant heat. This leads to lower operational costs compared to forced air systems. However, to really dial in the actual numbers, you’ll need to factor in the energy source you want to use (usually natural gas or electricity), how efficiently the house was insulated, and the local climate. 
  2. Forced Air Operation Cost: Forced air systems can be less energy-efficient than in-floor heating systems, especially if the ductwork or furnace aren’t properly installed. As opposed to in-floor heating systems, forced air systems require air to be continually moved throughout the building, allowing for cold zones to occur. 


Operation costs are mostly dependent on the local utility rates for electricity, natural gas, or other energy source you are using. You can find out costs in your area by going to EnergySave.Com

Another thing you will want to consider is where your new home will be located. If you live in northern areas, you’ll be much more likely to heat your home more often. We like to point people to EIA.Gov to help find out what their “Heating Degree Day” number is. In short, the more heating degree days you have at your location, the more days you will need to heat your home. You can also find out your “Cooling Degree Day” number. (I bet you can figure out what that means.) In short, the more HDDs you have, the more expensive your operating costs will be. 

So, what should you be looking for in terms of return on investment (ROI)? To calculate your payback period for your heating system, you’ll want to add initial installation and operational costs for either in-floor or forced air systems. Then, determine how many years it will take for the energy savings of one system to recoup the higher installation costs of the other. This will allow you to make an educated estimate on whether in-floor heating is worth the cost for you. 

In other words, does the lower costs of installation in one system, merit the long term buy-in? Are you really saving money? Well, it depends. For the right sized home, in the right climate, using the proper materials, an in-floor heating system is an obvious choice. You can save a little bit by going with a traditional HVAC system, but what are the long-term costs involved in maintaining and running that system? How long will certain energy sources be at their prices? Will they get less expensive? Will they rise in cost? 

For an accurate and region-specific cost calculation, give us a call. We can help you with estimates and can take into account your specific circumstances. We can help you choose a system that works best for you.