Hydronic Floor Heating

What is hydronic floor heating, and is it more efficient?

Hydronic is a completely different type of heat, produced by water tubes in your floors. Forced air heating systems heat all the air in your home, and your contact with that hot air makes you warmer. With hydronic heating, the heat is closer to your body, since it radiates out of the floor. Because it’s close to your body, and heats your body directly whenever you’re near the floor, you do not need to heat all the air in each room in order to feel warm. Thus, people feel warmer at lower heat settings. 

Hydronic heating has been used in Turkish baths for centuries. Though this heating system is ancient, it has many advantages over forced air heat systems. For one, it does not require air to be blown around the home, which creates dust and dries out the air. Additionally, by not forcing air through the house constantly, there are fewer temperature air leaks throughout the structure.

Many who have lived in hydronically heated homes say that the heat these systems produce feels better. Heat that radiates from a surface you are constantly touching–rather than from hot air blown at you–feels like a much different type of heat. 

Hydronic heating systems have vastly improved since the last century. In Levittown, New York, the famous mass-produced houses built in the 1940s used radiant heating systems. These were made with copper pipes, which, unfortunately, had a tendency to corrode and leak. Modern systems use PEX piping, which is immensely more durable.

So, what is wrong with hydronic floor heating systems? Well, for one, these systems do not incorporate air conditioning. This means that an entirely different system for cooling air must be incorporated, if desired. Additionally, there are not a lot of studies that clearly prove radiant heating to be more efficient than other types of heating. In larger homes, it may in fact be less efficient. However, there are a wide array of factors to account for in comparing these types of systems. Given that only the lower half of the room needs to be heated with hydronic floor heat, and that people generally feel warmer at lower overall temperatures with these systems, there are significant advantages to hydronic heat when applied in the appropriate context. 

Hydronic floor systems are more expensive to install, which can counteract energy savings. However, they are worth looking into if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, and if you have a smaller house. Hydronic floor heating is also helpful if you have allergies, since it does not rely on circulating air and dust.

Hydronic floor heating systems are definitely worth considering, as the technology for them has vastly improved, and as their cost has somewhat decreased. Who knew a centuries-old heating system could be so cutting-edge?