Who doesn’t like a warm, cozy home? And, that’s why you need an efficient home heating system to provide you with the ideal air temperature. A good option to maintain comfortable heating at home is to use a hydronic heating system.

What is a hydronic heating system?

hydronic water heating system

A hydronic heating system provides warmth by pumping hot water to radiators, under-floor tubing, or heat exchangers. That is to say, this kind of hydronic radiant heating system can be installed on floors, by using baseboard hydronic heaters, or heat radiators.

The mechanism is to heat liquid and radiate that heat evenly throughout your home via tubes — instead of heating and blowing hot air. 

A hydronic heating system or hot water radiant heating system is less expensive to run than other types of home heating systems. In fact, HVAC experts believe that it’s much more cost-effective than running a duct system. And, it can function efficiently for 10 to 20 years, depending on the usage and local conditions.

How does hydronic heating work?

There are various components that work together to make your hydronic heater work. At the center lies the boiler that heats the water. And then, there are heat exchangers that transfer the heat to your home.

Basically, this system makes use of water or steam, heated by a boiler that may run on different energy sources such as natural gas, oil, electricity, or wood. The liquid enters the boiler’s combustion chamber through a circulator. It gets heated and the hot water is distributed through pipes to heat baseboards or radiators throughout your home. 

Types of hydronic heating system

  • Hot water baseboard heater: The baseboard unit comprises a hot water pipe that’s surrounded by metal fins. This arrangement helps to radiate heat in rooms.
  • Hydronic radiant floor heating: Here, hot water is pumped through plastic tubing beneath the floor’s surface. You can utilize it regardless of whether it’s a tile, concrete, or wood floor. However, it’s not a good idea under wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Hydro-air heating: It requires a ductwork system (that can also be used for home air conditioning) and an air handler. Here, hot water is pumped to a heat exchanger in an air handler. And, the heating air is distributed throughout the house. 

Hydronic heating system costs

To install a hydronic heating system with radiators, you can expect to spend $1,300 per radiator, approximately. This amount includes the cost of a boiler in an average-sized home. The total hydronic heating cost depends on whether you have a small, medium, or a large home. Also, the cost of installation depends on the kind of installation methodology you employ and your home’s requirements. 

What are the benefits of hydronic heating systems?

Hydronic radiant floor heating

To put it simply, hydronic systems are more energy-efficient than air systems. The reason is that it takes less energy to circulate water than it takes to blow hot air. Moreover, the heat produced doesn’t get lost while traveling through ductwork. A hydronic heating system vs forced air system provides cleaner, warmer, and more comfortable heat throughout your home — in an energy-efficient, cost-effective way. 

Let’s understand the advantages of a hydronic heating system in more detail. 

  • You can regulate heat and create multiple zones at home. Since there’s no one thermostat controlling the entire home heating system, you can change the air temperature according to your preference. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about temperature variations that arise from keeping doors open or closed.
  • You are able to maintain your home’s humidity levels and air quality. Radiant heat doesn’t dry out your home like forced air furnace systems do.
  • Hydronic systems underneath house flooring help to keep your floors warm while heating your home.
  • This type of heating system is quieter than a home furnace that creaks as warm air travels through cool air ducts.
  • This system saves space in your walls and ceilings as it usually doesn’t require air ducts and return air systems. Hydronic system tubes can be easily attached to floor joists, hidden in walls, or routed around existing pipes.
  • Since there’s no airflow through ducts, there’s no chance of dust, pollen, pet dander, or allergens being pushed into rooms. And, that’s why such systems don’t require any furnace filters.
  • A hydronic heating system is more efficient than other heating methods. It can save 20 to 40% off your heating bills.

Can I install such a system myself?

There are ways to install hydronic heating systems. One is a wet installation that involves laying the pipes inside the concrete. The other is a dry installation that uses prefab panels to hold the tubes. The pipes for hydronic radiators or baseboard heating can also be hidden in walls or floor joists. 

Since the installation process is a little complex, it’s best left to licensed professionals. Keep in mind that dealing with electric wires and plumbing pipes needs a good amount of expertise and experience. The last thing you’d want is to put yourself in a hazardous situation. 

Key takeaway

Hydronic heating makes use of hot water in a boiler. This boiler is fueled by natural gas, propane, or fuel oil. It disperses heat through pipes to radiators, coils, or radiant floor systems. This is drastically different from other heating systems that rely on heat pumps, solar thermal heat, or water heaters. The energy-efficient system maintains the air moisture level and is not as drying as a forced-air system.

Read more: Factors to consider when choosing a heating system

Is a hydronic heating system a good choice for your home? was last modified: September 27th, 2021 by Ramona Sinha
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