Is your existing heating system too expensive to operate, or it is old and breaks too often, costing you too much for frequent repairs? Are you planning to switch from the electric or oil-powered system to a more affordable and reliable gas heating?
No matter if your home size and number of family members, a hydronic heating system might be the solution you are looking for. Here you will find some valuable tips either you are building a new house, upgrading an existing system, or simply replacing it.
Choosing or changing the heating system could be a decision that will make a significant relief on your household budget and enhance your comfort. More than 60% of the annual energy is required to operate home heating, so choosing wisely can get you excellent cost reduction and a long-term and comfortable solution.
Also, about 20% of the energy is required for water heating, which is the second-largest energy consumer in one’s home. So, combining home and water heating into one system with the installation of a tankless combi heater might be one of the cost-effective solutions for you.
Whatever change you make, your investment should be effective, bring you a decent return, and worry-free use.
Fuel type or energy source. Electricity and natural gas are the most popular fuels in the US and Canada. Natural gas is cheaper and operational costs are lower, making it our first choice. Electricity costs more, but the heat pumps, such as the air source or geothermal, will get you an efficient system that will pay off in the long run. This system is recommended in regions where natural gas is not available and in less severe climates.
Heat distribution. Before choosing a heating system, decide how you want the heat to be distributed. The way how heat is distributed affects the efficiency of the system and your comfort. Two methods are the most popular; forced air and hot water circulation.
Efficiency. According to some experts, efficiency is the most important factor to consider. If the efficiency is high, your operating costs will be lower. Check out the AFUE or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency for gas and oil systems, HSPF, or Heating Season Performance Factor for the electric air-to-air heat pumps and COP or Coefficient of Performance for geothermal heat pumps. Look for high-efficiency gas furnaces with an AFUE of above 90%, HSPF of 9, and higher for the air source heat pumps, and COP of 3 for geothermal.
Cost. The cost is also an essential factor for many, but here is the catch. Don’t look at the initial cost only, but the operating cost, or how much money you will spend monthly to run the unit and have decent comfort.
The right heating system is the efficient one, lasts for a long time, is affordable, has low operating costs, and is clean (it does not emit various pollutants into the atmosphere).
When it comes to pollution, every heating device is directly or indirectly involved in pollution increase. Gas furnaces would emit pollutants at the point of use, while electrical units where the energy is generated.
For me, hydronic heating, powered by natural gas, is the way to go. It provides clean and low-cost heating.
There are several types of heating systems available. Based on the fuel source, you can buy units running on electricity, oil, wood, gas, and solar energy, including a combination of different energy sources. Plus, there is a variety of equipment and many manufacturers, so it is harder to decide which one to buy.
The most common heating equipment used in North America are:
Two systems are the most present in central home heating: forced air and hydronic (hot water systems).
Forced air heating systems use warm air to heat. These systems are equipped with a furnace as the heat source, ducts, registers, and controllers, all working together to produce and distribute the heated air throughout your home.
Hydronic systems use warm or hot water to distribute heat. Warm water is used in radiant floor heating, while hot water in radiator systems.
Hydronic radiant floor systems use warm water with temperatures of around 70 F, running through the pipes that are installed below the flooring. The floor acts as one big radiator. Floor heating is ideal for heating large areas in homes and buildings, and it works well with almost any floor covering. The main advantages are even heat distribution, efficient use of space, and no maintenance required.
In hydronic systems that use radiators, hot water is prepared inside the boiler, circulating through the pipes using circulation pumps. Hot water is delivered to the baseboards and radiators, transferring the heat to the surrounding room air. While circulating through the house, hot water delivers heat and then returns to the boiler for reheating. These systems also have controllers such as thermostats and valves that are installed to regulate the process.
Hydronic systems that use radiators are often found in European homes and buildings. Since they are installed above the floor and on the wall, they occupy living space and are sometimes not visually appealing, unless you have vintage radiators. The hydronic system typically produces and circulates water in a closed system where the temperature of hot water is around 80 F.
Older homes have wrought-iron pipes and cast-iron radiators. Modern homes have mostly copper or plastic pipes and aluminum radiators or panels installed. Radiators or panels are installed in each room of your home, while in bathrooms, you can also include towel warmers.
Radiators use convection to heat the air inside a room. When they heat the air, the air rises toward the ceiling, then it cools down and falls to the ground, where it is heated again. This creates a non-stop circulation of hot and cold air. Keep in mind if the system is not designed correctly, you might end up with many cold and hot spots, which will reduce your comfort.
Radiators are usually installed below windows and by the doors. The cold air from outside drops on the radiator or baseboards where it gets heated, thus eliminating the effect of cold windows, open windows, and doors.
A typical piping arrangement in residential homes is a one or two-pipe system.
Except for indoor heating as described above, hydronic heating systems can also be used in outdoor applications such as melting the snow on a driveway or heating the pool.
Depending on the energy source, hydronic heating systems contain more or fewer components.
The main components are:
The most significant advantage of hydronic heating systems is that they can use various energy sources for central heating of a whole house, even a portion of it. No matter if you are using natural or propane gas, electric, oil, solar, geothermal, wood, or a combination of these sources, your comfort is guaranteed.
The article should help anyone make an informed choice when planning to install a hydronic heating system in their home.