Radiant Heating Systems: Electric vs. Hydronic

Posted On: March 03, 2013

Homeowners in the Metro-East area know that heating a home can be a substantial part of a family’s budget each winter. Radiant heating systems can provide some relief, as they cost less to operate than conventional baseboard heating or most forced-air systems. But homeowners considering radiant heating systems should educate themselves about this method of home heating and understand the different types before making any final decisions.

The Romans used radiant heat — fires under the floors of their bath houses — thousands of years ago. Modern technology brings safer, more efficient ways to warm your home using radiant heat. The most common is radiant floor heat, with systems installed in, or directly underneath, the flooring, or in the joists below a home’s current floor. The system heats the floor, which in turn heats everything above it: the air, the furniture, and you — no more cold feet!

The two most common radiant heating methods are electric systems and hydronic systems. To produce electric radiant heat, electricity flows through resistance cables or specialized heating pads. The cables can come in pre-assembled mats, which make installation easier. Hydronic systems pump heated liquid (usually plain water, though some systems mix in propylene glycol) through a series of tubes. A room’s temperature can be regulated by changing the amount of water flowing through the tubes or the temperature of the water.

Each system has advantages.

Hydronic system advantages:

  • Less expensive to operate
  • Designed to heat entire homes
  • A variety of energy sources — including gas, wood or solar — can be used to heat the water
  • Easier to apply zone heating

Electric system advantages:

  • Easier to install
  • Best for small spaces
  • More practical for use as a supplemental heating source

Because proper installation of a radiant heating system is crucial to peak operation, it’s recommended that homeowners employ professionals familiar with radiant heating. For more information about radiant heating systems, please contact us at Ernst Heating & Cooling. Our service technicians can help you decide what heating system will work best in your home.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Hamel, Illinois and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about radiant heating systems and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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