There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the type of floor heating system that’s best for your home. Hot water floor heating systems have a lot of benefits, but they can also be expensive to install and maintain. So, is the experience worth the price? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of hot water floor heating systems to help you decide.
How Does A Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Work?
The flexibility of PEX tubing makes it ideal for hydronic floor heating. As the lengths snake through the room, a manifold holds the beginning and end. Since the floor will be sealed, the tubing can’t have joints. A specially shaped staple is used to hold each loop in place nine inches apart. Subfloors and tubing are covered with concrete or gypsum concrete, as well as dry-tamped mortar for a good seal. Materials such as these hold heat and radiate it evenly regardless of whether the system is running or not. In most cases, ceramic tiles are used to finish the floor, since they are also excellent at retaining heat.
Upon entering the room, the manifold will ensure that the water is evenly distributed between the lengths of PEX tubing and help vent the system. A circulating pump returns water to the bottom of the boiler to be reheated at the other end of the system, which is a dedicated boiler or water heater.
A running system maintains heat quite effectively since water generally loses ten degrees. Installing radiant floor heating systems in basements is the best choice because concrete slabs, thick or thin, provide excellent thermal mass, effectively making the floor into a huge radiator. Heating and cooling systems perform better when the floor has a larger thermal mass.
For radiant floor heating, laminate floors are better than hardwood floors, while carpet must be rated appropriately, and its backing material should be suitable. It is not recommended to use vinyl; tile in this case is better. When it comes to hydronic radiant floor heating, you will also find two other terms you’ll hear in addition to thin slabs and thick concrete.
Above-floor systems are installed above the subfloor and below the finished flooring (wood flooring, for example). Below-floor systems are installed beneath the subfloor. This type of system requires careful planning as the finished floor is covered with grooved wood panels.
There is an issue with floor height, which can cause doors or plumbing fixtures to malfunction. The above-floor heating system does not require a wood panel or second subfloor, so the installation of this system is much quicker, less expensive, and requires fewer resources. It is cheaper to install PEX tubing under a plywood floor instead of above it. There will not be any weight issues like there are with the concrete slab system.
However, it needs to be heated to the same temperature as the above radiant floor heating systems to provide the same feel. Retrofitting is a popular application of this technology.
Hot Water Heating – Pros & Cons
Pros of a Hot Water Radiant Underfloor Heating System
Heating That Lasts Longer
If your furnace shuts off, you’ll feel cold and the warmth will disappear. The radiators in hot water heaters are able to hold heat for hours, because they retain it from the water in them. Even after the boiler has shut down, you can still feel the heat coming from the radiators three or four hours after it’s turned off. You’ll consistently get that cozy feeling in your home during the winter months.
There Is No Breeze
In winter, forced air can feel uncomfortable even though furnaces distribute a higher air temperature. You may feel cool when you should be warm due to air movement alone. Due to the lack of breeze, you will feel warmer at lower temperatures with radiant floor heat systems.
The blowing of warm air throughout an entire house can cause the furnace to make quite a bit of noise. Because hot water heating does not use forced air, these systems are much quieter than forced hot air units.
Improved Air Quality
Air that is circulated through forced-air furnaces includes dust and other allergens. The boiler does not create air movement, so dust and debris will not circulate in your home as a result. It will also be easier to keep the air clean since there won’t be any air ducts to clean.
Cons of a Hot Water Underfloor Heating System
Costly to Install
Investing in a hot water system is more expensive. Hot water heaters offer many benefits to customers, so experts recommend considering this technology.
Boilers Cannot Be Equipped With Air Conditioners
The advantage of furnaces is that their ductwork can be the same as that of air conditioners. You should consider installing ductless systems or SpacePak or Unico to add air conditioning to a radiator-heated home.
More Questions on Heating Systems
What Type of Water Heater Do I Need for Radiant Floor Heating?
What water heater you need for radiant heating depends on your household size and water usage. Residential hydronic radiant heating systems usually produce about 25 to 35 BTU per square foot. Homes with low insulation might require higher heat output. You must know the square footage of your home to determine how large a water heater you need. You must choose one whose capacity matches that size. You can use the water heater for other purposes as well, such as providing hot water for the kitchen or bathrooms.
Electric water heaters for radiant floor heating are ideal for this application. These units provide hot water on demand at 6.6 GPM. Make sure you find one with the proper flow rate and insulation, and a warranty. Ensure your water heater is UL listed to prevent freezing and overheating. Choose a unit that has an energy efficiency rating of at least 0.93. You can also buy low-flow models to provide 1.8 GPM.
Can You Use a Tankless Water Heater For Radiant Floor Heating?
Yes, tankless water heaters can be used for radiant floor heating. Most tankless water heaters are small enough to fit on a wall and provide enough hot water for one person in 60 seconds. But they need to be sized properly. That means you have to do some calculations about how much heat your home needs and then find out which model is suitable for your home. The internet has many methods and even software that helps you calculate this.
When using tankless water heaters for radiant heating, you should always check whether the model you are looking at will work in the area where you want to install the heat. There are models that are designed to be placed on a concrete floor. They transfer the heated floors’ heat to tiles and then to the rooms. Tankless water heaters come in electric or gas varieties. Gas heaters rely on natural gas or propane to operate while electric models are more energy efficient. You should look for units that have both electric and gas options. Electric heaters are smaller but have limited flow output.
Can Hot Water Heaters Be Used for Radiant Floor Heating?
A typical radiant floor heating system uses a hot water heater to provide heat. A hot water heater, called a water boiler, heats water and turns it into steam. A closed system uses a radiator or radiant heat. Combi water heaters do both by heating the water and sending it to a heating system. They can also heat water to use for handwashing. The water used for the radiator is then tempered with a mixing valve.
The best way to install a hot water floor heating system is by using flexible tubes. Flexible tubes are installed in snap-in grids, aluminum strips on the underfloor, or embedded in poured concrete. Most finish floors, including hardwood, can be covered with the system. These systems are relatively inexpensive, and can cost anywhere from six to fifteen dollars per square foot. They are most commonly used in new constructions, where installation costs are low. However, the system requires separate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system for cooling.
Although DIY electric radiant floor heating systems are popular, there are also many advantages to using a hydronic system. Hydronic systems provide more even heat throughout the building, and can be installed on walls or ceilings. In addition to making your home warmer, these systems also make your workplace or retail space more comfortable. The advantages of hydronic heating systems include a lower cost and a more even distribution of heat throughout the building.
What Size Boiler Do I Need to Heat My Home With Radiant Floor Heating?
Before buying a new boiler, you need to figure out how many square feet your house is. Then, multiply the square footage by 1.5 to get the number of gallons of hot water it needs each minute. In other words, a 200-square-foot living room or bedroom would require 60,000 BTUs of hot water. If you have more than that, you might want to consider multiple boilers.
A low-efficiency boiler will cost less than an 80% furnace, but its operating costs will be higher. You can get a boiler with this level of efficiency from a manufacturer. It is not recommended for climates with very strict emission standards. In that case, a high efficiency boiler might be your best choice. These boilers can also be used for baseboard heat. However, they do not have an ultra-low NOx rating, so you may need a different boiler if you live in a hot climate.
If you are installing radiant heat systems on a concrete slab, you should know that there will be 12 runs of 1/2″ pipe on the floor. Each zone will be thermostatically controlled and on a separate manifold and pump. For indirect heating, you can use an HTP mod-con boiler, which has separate connections and branches out from the radiant system. It can also supply DHW indirectly.
Is Electric or Water Underfloor Heating Best?
Although electric underfloor heating is cheaper, per kilowatt of heat produced, water systems may require more insulation and floor preparation. Water systems may also require raising finished floor levels. Depending on the type of property, water or electric underfloor heating can be an expensive option for your home. An alternative heat source can reduce the running costs of your underfloor heating system.
When deciding between electric and water underfloor heating, the size of the room you want to heat is a crucial factor. Electric systems use two-mm heated cables to heat up the floor and radiate heat into the room. On the other hand, water underfloor heating uses warm water from a primary heating system to pump the heat under the floor covering. Both systems can be installed in a single room or multiple floors, and both are effective at regulating temperature.
Electric underfloor heating is faster to warm up and cool down, meaning the floor surface will cool more quickly. However, electrical underfloor heating requires wiring that can be difficult to locate and repair. Alternatively, a water-fed pipe system will enable you to detect leaks without disrupting the floor and heating. While neither system is perfect for all types of properties, there are a few advantages to both. There are pros and cons to each type of underfloor heating, so make sure you choose the right one for your space.
Is Water Floor Heating Efficient?
The answer depends on where you live. Some areas receive more solar heat than others, so floor slabs will absorb heat from the sun. In those regions, floor slabs will absorb less heat from the circulating water. If this happens, the heat from the floor slabs will be returned to the boiler. Alternatively, the heating system can be designed to circulate heated water to non-solar zones.
Hydronic systems, on the other hand, use heating pipes embedded in the floor to provide heat. These systems circulate water from a water heater or boiler through 1/2-inch polyethylene tubing. As the water cools, heat radiates throughout the room, keeping it warm even after the system is turned off. Because they radiate heat after the floor is heated, hydronic systems can be 6-8 degrees cooler than forced air systems.
As air-heated systems are less efficient than water-based ones, they take up less space. They are designed for installation on any type of floor, and they don’t require a large furnace. These systems can be retrofitted or installed in new homes. There are several benefits to installing radiant floors. These systems use less energy than traditional forced-hot furnaces and can save up to 30% on energy bills.
Is Hydronic Floor Heating Worth It?
Hydronic floor heating systems are more expensive upfront than electric systems. In addition to the boiler and pump, you will need gas lines. Although hydronic floor heating requires constant heating, the system is still more effective at retaining heat. Hydronic systems are better for large areas of a home than one room or two. If you don’t need to heat every single room, hydronic floor heating may be the right choice for you.
Although hydronic heating can be expensive, it is worth considering when remodeling your home. The added comfort and energy savings make it well worth the cost. The resale value of your home is likely to increase as well. Hydronic slab heating requires a boiler to raise the temperature of water to 50C. It also has an internal pump that circulates the water. In addition to the boiler, you can also install hydronic floor heating on an existing slab or poured-in-place concrete.
A hydronic system can cost around $1,500 per room. The cost is lower than electric systems, but larger hydronic systems can cost more than $50,000. It’s also worth noting that hydronic systems are extremely efficient over their lifetimes. Hydronic floor heating may not be the best choice for large homes. Generally, hydronic heating is installed during initial construction, whole house remodel, or basement finishing projects. This type of heating requires additional height in the room, which may make it expensive for homeowners.
Conclusion: Get Hot Water Floor Heating Systems Installed
If you’re tired of your cold floors, consider installing a hot water floor heating system in your home. These systems work by heating the water on the floor and the outgoing air around it. This heats the entire space, from floor to ceiling, thus warming the body from the ground up. Moreover, radiant floor heating systems are hypoallergenic and do not produce any dust or other airborne particles. In addition, they do not require complicated equipment, registers, ductwork, or drafts. They are easy to install, run, and do not make any noise.