What is Hydronic Heating?
In simplest terms, today’s hydronic heating is an energy efficient home heating system that uses tubing to run a hot liquid beneath the floor, along base board heaters, or through radiators to heat your home. Also referred to as radiant heating, this type of system has become increasingly popular among families that want added comfort and control in their heating zones, savings through lower heating bills, and a decrease in their environmental impact by making smart green building choices.
Introduction to Hydronic Heating Systems
The hot water, or alternative heated liquid, of the hydronic radiant heat system is circulated throughout the home through loops of plastic piping. Most often, these tubes are installed within your homes concrete slab or floor joist system as radiant flooring, and allow the heat to radiate evenly across the entire floor surface. In addition, baseboard heating units and radiators can be used as sources of hydronic heat.
The liquid in a radiant system begins in an energy efficient boiler, where it is heated before flowing to a plumbing manifold system. Your plumbing manifold acts as the control center by connecting to the thermostat and directing the correct temperature of water to the various heating zones of your home. This allows each zone to maintain a personalized, steady temperature. Pumps work to constantly circulate newly heated water into the tubing, while cooler water is returned to the boiler to begin its journey again.
This closed loop system of heating allows for flexible temperature customization, while maintaining an incredible level of energy efficiency.
Comfortable Room and Surface Temperatures
Radiant heating provides superior comfort because the entire floor radiates heat up from the ground in an even and consistent manner. Traditional forced air systems work by blowing warm air through a series of duct work in the floors, walls, and ceilings, and finally to its destination by way of one or two vents in a room. This method can lead to hot and cold spots due to poor air circulation, as well as temperature spikes and dips when the system turns on and off. Underfloor hydronic systems eliminate this issue by producing a steady heat that radiates from the floor throughout the entire room.
Hydronic heating allows you to say goodbye to cold tile floors. Your kitchen and bathroom tiles will never be chillingly cold to the touch, but instead, radiate a gentle warmth that makes the morning walk to the shower easy on your bare feet.
Do Hydronic Radiant Heating Systems Limit My Flooring Options?
Traditionally, hot water radiant floor systems have been installed in the concrete slab of a home, but advanced designs and installation techniques now make it possible to install hydronic tubing in floor joist systems and below hardwood floors, carpet, laminates, and vinyl flooring. This means that all traditional flooring options are available to homeowners with radiant flooring.
With this said, it is essential that both the hydronic system installer and the flooring installer are aware of the others work, so that they can make any needed adjustments to the materials, and protect the hot water tubing when the flooring is installed. As an example, carpet selection for underfloor systems is important because thicker carpets and pads can create an insulation layer that lessens the effect of the radiant heat. Speak with the hydronic heating system manufacturer and installer for advice on flooring materials that will ensure your system functions at its best.
Now that we have a basic understanding of residential hydronic heating systems, we need to go into more detail on how hydronic heating works.