Ceiling heat

Ceiling heat is electric resistance zonal heat. Usually, ceiling heat is installed under the thin-wall plaster or between layers of sheetrock on the ceiling.

The majority of ceiling heat consists of a single wire spaced six to ten inches apart in a non-overlapping pattern and controlled by an individual line voltage thermostat.

Another type of ceiling heat comes in panels that are added after the room is finished.

How does ceiling heat work?

Electricity flows through the thermostat and into the ceiling heat cable. As current flows through these cables they become hot. These hot cables heat the surrounding plaster or sheetrock which radiate the heat into the room.

Because this is radiant heat, objects and people in the room are warmed first and not the air. Eventually, the air is warmed from the objects and occupants in the room.

How do you operate ceiling heat?

Each zone, or room, is controlled by a separate thermostat. Set the thermostat in each room to the minimum comfortable temperature.

Generally, thermostats are set warmer in sitting rooms and cooler in kitchens and bedrooms. Rooms used only for storage can have their thermostats set to about 60 degrees. It is advisable not to set the thermostat any lower or a mildew problem may develop.

Because ceiling heat is a radiant heating system, it must first heat the ceiling before it can heat the room. As a result, there is a time lag between when you turn up the thermostat and when the room actually starts to grow warmer. Raising the thermostat will not make ceiling heat warm quicker.

How to maintain ceiling heat

Establishing a "set point"on the heater's thermostat can provide a more consistent room temperature and help you save money. Centrally place a thermometer in the room. Decide upon the lowest temperature setting you are comfortable with and then adjust the thermostat only high enough to maintain this temperature. Marking this temperature setting on the thermostat makes it easy to reset the heater during use. Remember, the lower the room temperature, the lower your energy costs. Thermostats may fail after a number of years and will need to replaced.

Ceiling heat options

Digital line voltage thermostats are the only option available with ceiling heat. These thermostats are digital units which provide a more accurate measurement of the temperature.


There are only two parts to ceiling heat: the heat cable and the thermostat. If you are having a problem with your system, check the circuit breakers to make sure they are all turned on. Then check the thermostat to see if it is turned up high enough to require heat.

If there are no problems with ceiling cracks, nails, or other fasteners penetrating the ceiling, then the problem is most likely with the thermostat. After more than ten years, most thermostats will start to fail.

In rare cases, the cables in the ceiling can fail. Most of the time, an electrician can fix broken cable. However, if the cables cannot be fixed, the least expensive option is to convert to wall or baseboard heat.