The Home Building Industry's Technical Information Resource

Back to Standard View
Search TechnologiesAbout Technology Inventory
Browse by Building System

Symbol Legend
Adobe Acrobat Reader required for PDF documents

PDF documents require the free Adobe Reader.

All PDF documents open in a new browser window. Close the browser window to return to the site.

Radiant Ceiling Panels

Surface-mounted electric radiant ceiling panels provide heating through radiant heat transfer

Contractor installing a panel.

Surface-mounted electric radiant ceiling panels provide heating through radiant heat transfer. With radiant heating, people are warmed directly, in the same way as they are by the sun on a cool day. Research indicates that radiant heat panels can provide energy savings over both traditional air-source heat pumps and electric resistance heaters. Radiant panels can be used to provide supplementary or zoned heat, or they can be used as the primary source of heating for an entire building.

Radiant ceiling panels typically consist of a high-density fiberglass insulation board, a solid-state heating element, and a textured surface coating mounted in a frame. Panels are usually 1-inch thick, range in size between 1 x 2 and 4 x 8 feet, and are powered by 120 or 240-Volt household electrical current. Panels typically operate at a temperature range of 150 to 170°F.

Radiant heat panels work by warming objects (including occupants) directly, instead of warming the air. Radiant heating systems reportedly allow a lower room air temperature than conventional forced air systems by concentrating heating on the occupants rather than heating the entire room. Therefore, panel placement is important for optimal comfort.

Radiant ceiling panels can rapidly change a room’s environment; they heat quickly when turned on and cool quickly when turned off. According to one manufacturer, radiant panels heat to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit within 4 minutes of being activated. A system with multiple zones can be created easily, with a separate thermostat in each room. This can provide significant energy savings by allowing only the occupied areas to be heated.

Energy Efficiency

Electric radiant ceiling panels can significantly reduce energy consumption and installed capacity when compared to an electric baseboard system.


Panels are lightweight, one-inch thick, and can be installed either inconspicuously or as an architectural feature. They can be mounted on the surface, flush, placed in a suspended ceiling grid, or freely suspended. No furnace, filters, blowers, ducts, or flues are required. One manufacturer’s bathroom panel includes a built-in exhaust fan, light, and night light. Installation difficulty is comparable to that of commercial fluorescent lighting.

Panels range in price from $200 to $500. Each zone requires its own thermostat which is approximately $40.

By keeping occupants comfortable at a lower temperature setting and offering multiple zones, radiant heat can save on utility bills. Radiant panels are maintenance free.

Most electric radiant ceiling panel systems have been approved by an independent laboratory, such as Underwriter's Laboratory. The recommended capacity for electric resistance heating is specified by the building codes on a watt-per-square-foot of living area basis. Radiant ceiling panels usually require less wattage than required by the building codes for conventional electric resistance heat. Manufacturers should have data for building officials which supports the lower required capacity for radiant ceiling panels.

Not Applicable

Installing radiant ceiling panels is relatively simple. A typical ceiling panel arrives at the job site pre-assembled. Panels are mechanically fastened to a ceiling, or are placed in a typical dropped-ceiling grid over the area to be heated. Standard wiring practices are used for electrical and thermostat hookups.

Warranties vary by manufacturer. A 1 to 5 year limited warranty is typical.

Lower room air temperature and individual thermostatic control of rooms or zones can reduce heating energy use and increase comfort. Radiant ceiling panels are well suited for retrofit applications. Because radiant panels have no moving parts, such as fans or compressors, they are quiet and relatively maintenance-free. Installation of a radiant panel system can cost less per square foot of conditioned space than a typical forced-air heating system.

Disclaimer: The information on the system, product or material presented herein is provided for informational purposes only. The technical descriptions, details, requirements, and limitations expressed do not constitute an endorsement, approval, or acceptance of the subject matter by the NAHB Research Center. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information. Full reproduction, without modification, is permissible.