In the late 60’s and early 70’s it was common to install electric radiant heat in the ceilings of homes.
I still find these old systems and some are still working just fine.
However, often they have been abandoned and wall heaters have been installed.
I like these systems quite a bit. When you are in a room with radiant heat, it is a bit like that feeling you get when sitting in the sun. Because it is in the ceiling, it does not have some of the limitations that other heating systems might have. You can put furniture anywhere you choose without affecting the flow of heat.
They mostly went out of favor due to the cost of electricity in some areas. They were installed in buildings with poor air-sealing and little insulation. This type of heating system, installed in a very tight, well insulated home, should be no more expensive to run, and certainly cheaper to install, than other types of heating.
It is difficult to compare apples and oranges because the costs of all the different means of heating is so variable from location to location.
Another reason the systems stopped working, and had to be replaced, was people screwing things into the ceiling and damaging the wires. With this type of system you cannot simply screw things into ceilings wherever you want.
On a recent inspection of a 1968 building the radiant electric ceiling heat units were all functional.
My clients really liked the “feel” of the sun in each room and the thermographic images look and feel a bit like the sun don’t you think?
Of course, as you can see, if you really need to poke something in a ceiling, it is pretty easy to tell where the wires are.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board