Survey Finds Radiant Heat Systems Gaining In Popularity Among Homebuilders

Gas fireplaces also growing fast, trailing only water heaters and kitchen appliances as appliance most likely to be fueled by gas


Washington, DC (September 29, 2005) – The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) released a survey today which found that the popularity of radiant floor systems is gaining, with 23 percent of builders surveyed planning to “increase” or “greatly increase” their use of radiant floor systems in the next 12 months. This trend is strongest in the Northeast, where 40 percent of respondents say they are likely to install more radiant floor systems, followed by the Midwest (31%) and the West (23%). Builders cited radiant floor systems’ ability to provide even heat and cleaner air with lower operating costs as the primary factors for choosing them over competing systems.

However, the survey found that during the past 12 months, heating system trends remain unchanged, with forced air heat systems remaining the number one heating distribution system installed. Builder perceptions of homeowners’ acceptance of radiant heating systems appear to be a major factor affecting market growth. When asked about consumer attitudes toward radiant floor heat, 47.5 percent of builders surveyed said consumers were neutral. When asked the same question about forced hot air, builders said only 17 percent of consumers were neutral, with 67 percent of consumers having a high acceptance of forced hot air.

Regardless of the heating system installed, gas fuel sources – natural gas (59%) and propane (7.6%) – continue to be the preferred home heating fuel choice for builders, followed by electricity (27%) and home heating oil (4%). Alternative fuel systems, such as geothermal, appear to be waning, with just 1 percent of builders saying they had installed a geothermal system in the past 12 months.

Fireplaces trailed only water heaters and kitchen appliances as the most popular gas appliance in today’s home. Gas fireplaces have the highest penetration rate in the South, with 20.7 percent of homes having a propane fireplace, followed by New England (14.3%) and the Midwest (9.1%).

“The survey shows that propane and natural gas continue to provide builders with the highest level of comfort and reliability, regardless of the heating system they choose,” says PERC representative Jim Hitzemann. “With gas fireplaces continuing to gain in popularity, we encourage homebuilders to examine all appliances they plan to install in a new home to understand the value consumers can realize with propane.”

While propane is a preferred fuel source for home heating systems beyond the main, the survey found that homebuilders appeared to be missing an opportunity to extend propane’s benefits beyond home heating systems. When single-family detached builders were asked what other appliances were fueled by propane, they said propane was used for 7.6 percent of water heaters, 6.3 percent of indoor cooking appliances and 1.7 percent of outdoor appliances. Propane had a much larger footprint among multifamily and apartment builders, with nearly 25 percent of all fireplaces installed in apartments fueled by propane, followed by water heaters (23%), and kitchen appliances (20%).

The finding contrasts with the number of propane appliances builders say they would use if propane was the primary heating fuel source for their home. When given the choice, 67 percent of builders surveyed said they would use propane for water heaters, outdoor appliances, and fireplaces. Of those surveyed, 53 percent said that their kitchen appliances would also use propane.

“The survey findings show that builders understand the total home benefit of propane,” added Hitzemann. “Within the multi-unit sector, given the impact of energy costs on overall operating costs, it appears that sector is realizing the cost-savings benefits propane can provide when used to fuel multiple appliances. The propane industry will continue to work closely with residential builders to help improve their understanding of propane’s value beyond home heating applications.”

About the Survey
The Web-based survey was conducted by the NAHB Research Center, a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), on behalf of the Propane Education & Research Council in August 2005. A nationally representative sample of 302 builders participated in the survey.

For additional information about heating with propane, please visit

For more information regarding the survey, please visit