The term radiant heating tends to mean something different in the commercial and industrial sector than it does in the residential. When you hear residential HVAC technicians talk about adding radiant heating to a house, they’re usually referring to heating using a boiler, a.k.a. hydronic heating. In hydronic heating, a boiler heats up water and sends it to terminal points such as radiators and baseboard heaters to raise their temperature, which then sends waves of heat into rooms. Other types of radiant heating in homes include electrical elements in the floor or walls that heat up building material and radiate heat indoors.
These methods are used in commercial buildings, but when technicians talk about using a radiant heating system for a commercial or industrial space, they usually mean radiant tube heating. The heat from these is still radiant, i.e. it doesn’t heat the air but instead sends infrared waves to heat the people and objects within that space. However, radiant heaters work much differently than hydronic systems, and they have a special use: they’re excellent at heating large, open spaces such as warehouses or spaces that are often exposed to the outside cold.