Every time I go across the Atlantic to visit a trade show on hydronic heating systems in Europe, I see more and more radiant systems designed for walls and ceilings.

I recently returned from the Mostra Convego Fiero (Comfort Show and Convention) in Milan, Italy, where I saw a continuation of what I have been seeing over the past 10 years. There were limitless displays of radiant wall heating/cooling and ceiling panels of every shape, design and size.

Every system manufacturer is offering dry panels and systems in a dazzling array of panel designs for ceilings and tubing mounting options for European style cement and stucco walls. The ceiling panels are mostly intended for suspended ceilings in office cooling, heating and other commercial applications.

Why has this trend of radiant ceilings and walls emerged and grown so tremendously in Europe over the past decade?

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One reason for the popularity of radiant wall heating definitely has to do with the popularity of tile stoves, which originated in Alpine countries like Switzerland, Austria and Bavaria, and spread to the northern part of Germany and Scandinavia.

The radiant comfort experienced by users of old fashioned massive tile stoves, which have been built into homes over centuries, have definitely been a driving force. Anybody who has ever sat next to one of those beautiful monster stoves on a cold winter day knows what they are raving about. Why the renaissance of radiant tile stoves as a form of wall heating?

Besides the comfort issue, the reasons are mostly economics. Radiant comfort in Europe certainly doesn’t have to be promoted as a novelty any longer. Over the past 50 years, modern day hydronic radiant heating technology has established itself to the point where most Europeans have become accustomed to it as part of their daily lives.

A hydronic radiant system is certainly easier to retrofit into walls at a fraction of the cost of floor systems. Only one third of the material is needed, since walls can run at higher supply water temperatures, typically between 80°F to 150°F, and even higher temperatures if needed a few days out of the year. Radiant comfort is not affected by it but enhanced, in my opinion.

All this is possible, since we are not designing the system around a maximum floor surface temperature of 85°F as in radiant floor systems. Should we get occasional wall surface temperatures of 90°F – 110°F, it doesn’t matter — you can’t thermally overload the wall because we are not walking on it.

Radiant walls can also be an excellent auxiliary surface in conjunction with radiant floors, which many of you have utilized in the past in bathroom installations and in high heat loss areas. Radiant walls are also a great combination with new or existing HVAC systems, providing the contractor with a radiant tool without breaking your client’s bank.