Electric ceiling heat

Hi Gize . . .
I have an inspection coming up next week which has ceiling mounted radiant electric heat. I assume if it gets warm it is working but beyond that, anything special I should look out for? What is the useful life of a system like that? We don’t find many of them here in MI but I have run across a couple.
As always . . . the wisdom of this organization is accepted most graciously.

Best regards:cool:

They take a good long time before you’ll feel the warm, even with your hand, but an IR gun will help. Yes, as long as they start to get warm, they work.

They’re a garbage system, and they always were. Homes with ceiling radiant heat will typically have cracks in them. When the fail, the only repair option short of tearing the ceiling down and starting over, is to install electric baseboard heat.

I can only think of 2 ways to check if this works.

  1. spray the ceiling lightly with water from a spray bottle and watch it evaporate when heated. Probably won’t happen due to possible staining.

  2. Turn the heat on and view with a thermal imager camera.

Most everyone would agree that today the easiest way to check these is to use thermal imaging. We have tons of these in the Idaho area, before thermal imaging we just cranked it up waited 15 min and came back and checked it with our laser thermometer.
My dad had the same thing and last year it finally failed he now has a full furnace (finally) after years of telling him this.
Surprisingly enough my dads ceiling was in excellent condition no signs of deterioration, coils just finally failed. Just check the ceiling like you normally would and write it up.


Ditto what Marc said and watch for add-on (not original) penetrations through the ceiling that may have pierced the cables like plant hangers or ceiling lights.

You can usually pick up the thermal signatures between the grids with an IR thermometer but an IR camera is great for seeing them operate instantly!





these images will give you a good idea of how they can be laid out

I inspected a home in January 2005 with ceiling radiant heat. The floor was over a crawlspace and was uninsulated. The outdoor temperature was 0 degrees.

My face was warm…my feet were cold. My temp gun gave me 123 degrees at the ceiling, and 40 degrees on the carpet.

They are crap for comfort as well as wear-and-tear.

Sounds like the main problem with the MO house was the uninsulated crawl space. Any type of heat would look bad in that situation.

Jim King

There was another thread just about 2 weeks ago about electric radiant ceiling heat. Was in Electrical or maybe Interior.

Cannot help my self the old HVAC comes out in me if I want to know if something is working that I can not physically see, out comes the amp meter check it at the breaker. Geez what did I just say hope Roy doesn’t see this post;) :smiley: </IMG></IMG>

About 25% of my inspections have radiant heating in the ceilings. They seem to be prevalent in the neighborhoods here that were build between 1945 and the late 1960s. They actually work quite well, which surprised me because logic and physics tell me that they shouldn’t. I always take a temperature reading the ceiling prior to turning the thermostat on. I let them run for one hour and then take a reading again. Usually I find about a 30°F temperature rise.

Contrary to an earlier poster, I have not found the ceilings to be extensively cracked when radiant heating is in use. In fact, I think it’s the opposite, possibly because of the extra steps needed to make the ceiling able to handle this type of heating system.

Why wouldn’t you pull the t’stat from the wall box, check the amps and then calculate the watts installed or working? Thermaray panels sold in the late 1980’s had some problems with parallel wired resistive heating wires breaking, reducing the working wattage as time went on.

Agreed! Except most of the radiant ceiling heat I’ve seen was installed in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Yes, I corrected a typo from my VRS and introduced another typo at the same time. That “1960s” in my post should have been “1980s.”

About 75% of the radiant heating systems I inspect are no longer working. They were disconnected during the Enron power manipulation fraud of 2000-2001.

I have radiant ceiling heat in my home; was installed in 1952 still working. As stated in other posts turn the heat on 30 - 60 minutes us a laser thermometer check the ceiling of each room from end to end and side to side, you may have areas that are no longer functioning.


Once again the old MB comes through as I knew it would. Thanks to all who offered their two cents worth. I doubt that there will be any surprises here . . . as I figured, it either works or it doesn"t.

Many thanks to all, :cool: