Hydronic heating systems
Radiant heat warms everything in your home, not just the air, providing you with comfortable, cozy heat.
Hydronic systems use water to distribute heat throughout a home or building. Hot water from a central boiler is circulated to radiators, or radiant floor coils, in each room through pipes.
Radiant heat warms your body and objects in the room rather than just the air in the room. This provides a cozy and comfortable warmth, even with the thermostat turned two to three degrees lower than normal.
When installing a hydronic system for your home, it's relatively easy and cost effective to add extra piping for a swimming pool or spa you might be planning to add later. With a hydronic system you can also add under-floor heat to your bathroom tiles, or a "snow melt" feature to your driveway.
A hydronic system can provide both space and zone heating. It can handle your domestic water heating needs, supported with a separate water storage tank. And it can provide heat using a variety of methods such as under-floor, freestanding radiators, radiant panel baseboard, or heated towel racks in your bathroom.
Hydronic systems and radiant heat provide the ultimate in home heating comfort, and can consume less energy than forced air systems. And because hydronic systems are insulated, there is virtually no loss of heat as it's distributed throughout your home.
A small volume of hot water will deliver the same amount of heat as a large volume of warm air. Hot water piping also uses significantly less space than ductwork.
Alternative energy sources, such as ground-source heat pumps or solar panels, can be combined with a hydronic system.
Heats anything around the home such as greenhouses, garages, swimming pools, hot tubs and spas.
Unlike a forced air system which shares the heat all over the house, a hydronic system employs individual zone valves, so you can select the area you wish to heat.
Buying and maintaining a hydronic heating system
Before you lay flooring
If you’re considering a radiant floor heating system, consider whether the installation will be “wet” (embedded in a concrete slab or lightweight concrete) or “dry” (attached on top or beneath the sub-floor or sandwiched between two layers of sub-flooring). Your choice will depend on whether you’re retrofitting or building new, the type of floor finish, and your overall budget.
Think about cooling, too
Radiant floor heating will not cool your home or clean the air. If you live in a climate where cooling is necessary, you’ll need additional equipment for the job, such as zone air conditioners or a heat pump.
If upgrading to a high-efficiency (90 per cent or greater AFUE) natural gas boiler, your contractor must verify that your home’s existing heat-distribution system can provide the return water to the boiler at or below 49 °C (120 °F).
Maintenance is important
Ask a hydronic certified installer/plumber to maintain your system. Not all plumbing companies have the knowledge or training to perform the work.
Routine maintenance will keep your system at peak efficiency, save on fuel and keep repairs to a minimum. Certification is the best way to assure yourself that you’re getting qualified service.