Electric Cable Ceiling Heat Pros and Cons

Many houses built during the 1960s and 1970s use electric cable ceiling heat as the primary heating source. Before installing the plaster or drywall for the ceilings, contractors would install these panels above it. Then they’d cover these with the finishing materials.

Then, during cold spells, mains power is what heats these cables. These then radiate that heat through the drywall to the living spaces below.  This form heating suffers most of the same drawbacks as other electric heat designs. Namely, it can cost a lot to run.  But despite the expense, electric heaters in the ceiling can work well where only electricity is available.

Advantages, Benefits, Features, and Pros of Electric Cable Ceiling Heat

Easy to Install in New Construction

Installing the heating cables is relatively easy. That is, if you do it before installing the final layers of drywall and sheet rock.  Harder to do this though after a house is complete.

Separate Thermostats in Each Room

Generally, each room has its own thermostat. This gives independent control of the temperature there, from the rest of the home.

Decentralized Heating is a Practical Option

They can build this as a completely decentralized heat source. So you can heat as much of, or as little of the home as you want. Children going to college in the fall?  Well, turn off the electric ceiling heating in their rooms only. But you still can stay toasty in your own living spaces.

Silent Operation in Electric Cable Ceiling Heat

These heaters permanently installed inside a ceiling, are very quiet.  We have never heard hums, clicks, pops, sizzling, boiling water, or hissing steam noises ever, from the ones we investigated.

Almost Maintenance Free

The cable part of this heating system has no moving parts to wear out.  Unlike central furnaces that typically need at least annual care, adjustment, and maintenance, electric heating cables need none.

Takes Up No Room Space

With the heaters above ceilings, there’s no ductwork to take up valuable room space. And there are no vents or registers to dust or to worry about covering with furniture. In fact, the only visible signs of this heating system would be the thermostat. The cable heaters themselves however, are not visible.

Virtually No Radio Interference

Some oil furnaces and systems with electronic air cleaners can create much radio frequency interference when not well maintained.  But electric cable ceiling heat virtually never create any arcing type interference; even when not maintained for decades.  Since they get power directly from the mains, they feature little to no electronic power supplies. So there’s not much radio hash without these supplies to generate it.

Disadvantages, Limitations, Problems, and Cons of Electric Cable Ceiling Heat

Same Problems as Other Forms of Electric Heat

Now the cables in this type of ceiling heating warm by electrical current resistance. So this is still a form of electric heat. So it suffers just about all the drawbacks of the same.

Harder to Fix

Though repairs are virtually never necessary, when he heating wires do fail, getting at them to replace, can cause headaches.  Why?   Because electric cable ceiling heat elements hide above drywall or plaster. So should one stop working, you may have to cut holes in the ceiling to fix it.  Then, if the heater is at fault, more of the ceiling may have to come down, to replace it.  This job would need not only an electrician to ring out the trouble and fix it.  But you’d also need a drywall pro to restore the ceiling once repairing finishes.  So paying both of these professionals could cost a bunch.

Hot Head, Cold Feet Problem

All forms of radiant ceiling heating without a fan suffer from the hot-head-cold-feet problem. That is: Areas low to the floor remain much colder than spaces near the ceiling.  In one hose we explored that used this heating method, your head would sweat while your feet would freeze!  Indeed since convective heat rises, heaters in the ceiling seems a little strange. But a proper design can work well.

But through radiant action, they can heat the entire room quite effectively, just like the sun shining down can do.  In principle, radiant heating should work well.  But electric ceiling heaters aren’t nearly as powerful as the sun.  So, their heating rays are thus, not nearly as effective as sunshine.  Therefore, they often do not adequately heat distant walls and floor spaces. For that, you need help from some form of air mover such as an oscillating fan, or ceiling-based air mover.

Needs Fans for Most Comfort with Electric Cable Ceiling Heat

To overcome the cold-floors issue, homeowners often install decorative ceiling fans. These push the warm air above, down.  And they force the cold floor air up to the ceiling, where it warms again.  So the overall effect of the fans is to establish a more uniform room temperature from floor to ceiling. Though the se fans consume next to no power, their purchase price can add up.  Not to mention the installation and maintenance.

Requires Line Voltage Thermostats

For this type of heating, thermostats must be of the line voltage variety.  And these tend to be less sophisticated and feature-packed than the more advanced low voltage models. But they are cheaper to buy.  However, co shop a little more if you can. Honeywell for example, makes 5-2 programmable line voltage thermostats. Plus they may have some 7-day programmable 220-volt models as well.

Hard to Install in Pre Existing Homes

Unless you gut the ceilings, electric cable ceiling heat would likely not be practical. If you don’t have easy access to above the ceilings this heat would be hard to install. So it’s better to build this into new construction, than an existing building.

Needs Decent Insulation

To avoid sky high electricity bills, insulate the house well.  Cable ceiling heat needs very good insulation support to function economically.  Indeed there should be plenty insulation above the heating cables. This stops much of the heat from escaping through the roof.

Switching Relays can be Noisy

If they use relays to keep high current off the thermostat, they can avoid this potential problem.  They might either use a solid state switch between the thermostat and the ceiling heaters. Or they could position the relays well away from the room that they control.

As with any other heating method, the plusses of this method far outweigh the minuses we think. Now the choice of how to heat a home has significant financial ramifications initially. And you should consider this cost for the entire lifetime of the home. So choosing wisely is critical.  But we hope this post helps ease you heating selection process.

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