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How to Install Hydronic Heating

There are many different ways to install a residential hydronic heating system in your home. Whether you are building a new custom home from the ground up or undergoing an extensive remodel, hydronic systems can be installed in almost any situation. The following is a look at a few of the most common installation methods.

Hydronic Radiant Flooring

Radiant floors are either installed with what is called a “wet installation” method or “dry installation” method. All methods require insulation to be placed below to ensure the heat is directed into the home and not away. The following is an explanation of each method and when they are used.

  • Wet – Using a wet installation involves placing the radiant tubing into a bed of concrete. This can be very effective because the concrete acts to protect the tubing, while also providing a thermal mass to absorb the heat and radiate the warmth evenly throughout the room. The two different types of wet application are for:
    • Slab on grade foundations: During this process the radiant tubing is secured to the rebar or reinforcing structure within the slab before the wet concrete is poured into the foundation.
    • Thin Slab: These are created on top of subfloor systems where the tubing is attached to the subfloor and a thin layer of self leveling concrete is poured over the top. This can raise the floor height anywhere from ½ inch to 1.5 inches, and requires the structural engineering of the home to be designed to support the extra weight the concrete creates. The bonus of this installation is that it allows second floor rooms, as well as areas above basements and crawlspaces to have radiant floors installed.
  • Dry – Dry systems of radiant flooring installation, often called plate systems, utilize prebuilt panels that have tracks for the radiant tubing within their design. This makes it easy for installers to loop the tubes as needed before covering with flooring material. Without the thermal mass provided by concrete, a dry installation method can require more careful placement of insulation and the addition of heat reflectors to help separate the heating zones and direct the warmth in the right direction. 

Hydronic Radiator and Baseboard Installation

Radiators and baseboard hydronic heaters are much simpler to install because there is far less piping to utilized overall. From the plumbing manifold, the different zones of pipe are placed within the walls or through the floor joists to connect with their units. Careful placement of the radiator or baseboard unit is important because you will not want it blocked with furniture in the future. In addition, the plumbing lines for the heated and returning water should be run through condition spaces and insulated. This will ensure that there is little heat loss as the water is moved to the heating units, and as much heat is recovered when it is returned to the boiler.