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Ceiling heating: how does it work and when is it worth it?

What is ceiling heating?

The ceiling heating is a surface heating. As with underfloor and wall heating, a large area is heated with pipe coils or radiant panels. The heat is given off by radiation. Compared to conventional radiators, in which the medium water has to be 55 ° to 60 ° C, the flow temperature is lower and is around 30 ° to 40 ° C. Ceiling heating is usually controlled by a central system, which is used in new buildings is not infrequently operated with renewable energies such as solar cells. A heat pump is also suitable as a drive.

Under certain circumstances, ceiling heating can also serve as underfloor heating for the rooms above. © RoAll /


How does ceiling heating work?

As with wall or underfloor heating, ceiling heating heats a wall surface directly without air transporting the thermal energy. With ceiling heating, the emission into the room occurs almost exclusively, namely 98 percent, through radiation. In comparison, underfloor heating works with 50 percent radiation and 50 percent convection, while wall heating has a radiation component of 70 percent.

What types of ceiling heaters are there?

Two ceiling heating systems are available on the market. Electrically operated ceiling heaters consist of heating plates or foils made of conductive material. The advantages of this are the low purchase price and easy installation, but operation is more energy-intensive. Water-borne ceiling heating is a pipe system that is built into steel plates.

How does the heat get from the ceiling down into the room?

Conventional radiators give off their heat by convection. This means that it is transported by the energy carrier air. Warm air has a lower density than cold air, which is why it rises. If it hits a cold ceiling, because it is poorly insulated, it sinks down. This creates an unpleasant air circulation, the room sometimes feels cold despite the heating.

With ceiling heating, the heat is emitted by means of radiation, so the energy is emitted directly from the radiators to the material of the ceiling on the basis of electromagnetic waves. The warmth radiates in all directions, just as the warmth of the sun spreads throughout space. The fact that warm air moves upwards and cold air downwards in conventional heating systems is therefore irrelevant for the functionality of ceiling heating.

How long does it take for the ceiling heating to heat the room?

As a rule, a ceiling in well-insulated buildings heats up to the desired temperature within 10 to 15 minutes. The warmth can be felt just a few minutes after switching on. Experience has shown that the room feels around 3 ° C warmer than it actually is.

When does ceiling heating make sense?

In gyms, airports, shopping malls and factories, ceiling heating systems have been known for decades as environmentally friendly and inexpensive heating systems. In recent years, like all surface heating systems, they have become more and more popular in new buildings and renovations because the low flow temperature enables energy savings. The following sections explain the advantages and disadvantages of ceiling heating compared to conventional radiators, wall and floor heating.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ceiling heating?

As already mentioned in the sections above, surface heating systems are convincing because of their low flow temperature, which enables operation with solar systems and heat pumps, for example. Another great advantage of ceiling heating is that, unlike conventional radiators, it does not spoil the look and no living space is wasted. In comparison to wall heating, it also scores points in this respect. Wall heaters lose their efficiency when furniture is leaned against the wall while the ceiling is usually not occupied.

Another plus point for ceiling heating is the uncomplicated installation even afterwards in old buildings, while laying underfloor heating can be problematic. If there are valuable floors in the house that would be damaged if underfloor heating was installed, this also speaks for ceiling heating. For allergy sufferers and people who are sensitive to drafts, the ceiling heating is also a good choice, because the non-existent air circulation prevents dust, dirt and mites from being swirled through the air. In addition, most people find radiant heat to be more pleasant than convection heat.

The ancient Romans already used surface heating to keep the floors of the patrician villas and thermal baths warm. However, they were operated with steam.

The main disadvantage of ceiling heating is its increased energy requirement compared to wall and floor heating, since there is no heat dissipation through convection. In the case of houses that are not optimally insulated, there are no cost savings compared to conventional radiators despite the low flow temperature. Another problem is that once a ceiling heater has been installed, it is no longer allowed to drill holes in the ceiling because the pipes could be destroyed.

In which buildings and rooms is ceiling heating worthwhile?

The heat given off by radiation flows directly from the radiant ceiling panels to the surrounding wall. For this reason, it is important that the ceiling is well insulated so that the ceiling heating can operate efficiently. Installation is therefore only worthwhile in new or refurbished old buildings, as otherwise the energy losses are too high. In addition, the ceiling height should be greater than 2.50 meters. Experience has shown that ceiling heating is perceived as uncomfortable in lower buildings.

Can ceiling heating also be used for cooling?

The great advantage of ceiling heating is that it can also be used to cool the ceiling in summer by allowing cold water to flow through the pipes. Here, too, the cold is released into the air by means of radiation. This type of cooling is very efficient. The room temperature is perceived as cooler than the actual one. Another advantage over conventional air conditioning is the improved hygiene, since no filters are required in which germs can settle. There is also no need for time-consuming regulation of air humidity.

How is ceiling heating installed?

Ceiling heating is usually installed as drywall. By creating a suspended ceiling, the radiators are placed between the two ceilings. In some systems, the heating surfaces are already integrated in plasterboard, this variant is particularly easy to install. Although the installation does not require any complex construction work, installation by a specialist is essential for correct functioning and commissioning.

Installation of electrical ceiling heating

An electric ceiling heater is installed by placing parallel slats under the ceiling, which serve as a support for the foils. The foils are installed parallel to the windows in order to increase the efficiency of the heating. As with water-based ceiling heating, the ceiling is covered with wooden panels or plasterboard.

Installation of a water-based ceiling heating

In the case of water-based ceiling heating, the heating plates with embedded pipes for the hot water supply are placed under the ceiling. Around twenty percent of the ceiling area is covered with it. This guideline value is sufficient to heat the room to 20 ° C. Some manufacturers offer ceiling heating in which the heating pipes are incorporated into clay panels. This visually valuable solution has the advantage that the clay material releases moisture at the same time.


Ceiling heating uses thermal radiation to give off energy. The advantages of these systems include the low flow temperature, easy installation and visual advantages because the radiators are hidden and do not interfere with the appearance. The lack of air circulation also makes them healthier than conventional radiators because they do not stir up any particles and do not allow the air to dry out. Both electrical and water-based ceiling heating are ecological and economical solutions, especially in new buildings or in well-insulated old buildings. If you would like to have ceiling heating installed in your home, you will find contact to specialist companies at who will give you competent advice.