What is Hydronic Heating?
In a nutshell, Hydronic heating is a modern energy efficient home heating system that uses tubing to run hot liquid under floors, with base board heaters or through radiators. This also referred to as radiant heating. Because hydronic systems do not move air, you can be more comfortable without the drafts and noise associated with some forced air systems. Also, a boiler heats your home without drying out the air or slowly damaging furniture and woodwork. Radiant heating gives you added comfort and control in your heating zones, 82% AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) and more environmentally friendly.
How does it work?
Hydronic heating is effective by heat transfer in three ways:
- Conduction This is the movement of heat through objects that physically touch, where heat moves from the warmer object to the colder. Standing barefoot on a beach with hot sand or a cold kitchen tile floor are good examples of this process. Density affects an objects ability to be conductive, which is why liquids are much better conductors than gases. This is the reason why we get colder much faster immersed in 60 degree water, as opposed to standing in outside air temperatures that are the same.
- Convection This occurs when fluids or gases transfer heat while they are being circulated from one area to another. Traditional heating systems that use forced air are perfect examples of this type of heat movement. Just picture the warm air that flows out of the vents in a room to understand this process. Unfortunately, air and other gases, as mentioned above, are poor conductors of heat.
- Radiation Thermal radiation is heat that travels in invisible waves through empty space. It is not something that can be blown away by the wind or moved. It is simply absorbed by the person or object that is in the path of the beam of energy, and is a far more effective means of transferring heat.
Hydronic heating works so effectively in keeping your family and home warm over conventional forced air systems because it utilizes conduction and radiation in heat transfer along with a superior conductor of heat in the form of a liquid. On the other hand, forced air heating relies solely on convection and air. Air is such a poor conductor of heat that it is often used as a means of insulation, as can be seen by its use in between the panes of energy efficient windows.
Types of Radiant Heating Systems
Every residential hydronic heating design will require the following basic elements to heat the home:
- Boiler The means to heat the liquid.
- Liquid Medium Traditionally, this has been water, but some systems allow for other liquids or water and antifreeze mixes.
- Manifold/Thermostat Connected to the thermostat, the plumbing manifold is the hub for directing water flow and room temperatures.
- Tubing PEX or some other form of plastic tubing is pretty much universal with all hydronic systems, with very little in the way of copper or other rigid piping used.
- Heat Exchanger The radiator, baseboard heater, or in floor element that transfers the heat into the home.
- Pump To keep the heated liquid in circulation, so that the warmth is constantly replenished.
With this understood, there are many different options within each element that are used depending on the type of hydronic radiant system you want for your home. An ABCO representative will discuss the best heating solution with you.
Outdoor Radiant Heating
In addition to meeting your indoor heating needs, outdoor radiant heating systems can be a very helpful addition to your overall HVAC design.
- Snow Melt A radiant heating system for melting snow on the sidewalks and driveway can make you home much safer. Additionally, radiant roof heating can help protect your roof from ice dams and future leaks due to snow and ice buildup.
- Heated Pools Anyone who likes the feel of a comfortably heated pool will appreciate radiant heating loops beneath the pool walls that allow for an energy efficient way to keep the pool warm and extend the swimming season.
What are the Benefits of a Hydronic Heating System?
- Multi Zones Radiant heating allows for personalized temperature control through the use of multiple zones throughout the home.
- Warm Tiles and Floors There is nothing as discouraging to the thought of getting out of bed in the morning then that frigid walk across cold bathroom tile on your way to the shower. Radiant flooring solves this problem by infusing the floors with heat.
- Balanced Humidity Levels It is far easier to maintain a balanced humidity level in the home with radiant hydronic heat because it will not dry out your home.
- Quiet Operation Radiant flooring and hydronic heating equipment work in silence while providing warmth for the whole house.
- Health Hydronic heat avoids Dust and allergens concerns entirely, as it does not require the movement of any air to warm the home. This provides a healthier environment for you and your family.
- Efficiency Hydronic heat is more efficient than traditional air heating.
- Versatile Installation Whether your local fuel source is propane, natural gas, electricity, or oil ABCO will be able to find a hydronic boiler that works for you. Hydronic piping can be placed in the walls and easily routed around the home, unlike traditional systems that require extensive ductwork and return air systems with large chases, which eat into your usable square footage in the home.