Hydronic floor heating is the oldest and most popular type of radiant floor heating. These systems are comprised of a boiler or hot water heater, pumps, manifolds, pex tubing, thermostat, and either gypcrete (a concrete-like material) or wood panels. Hydronic heating is the most complex of all radiant heat systems. These systems require trained Radiant Heating Contractors to design and perform the installation. Your best economies of scale are achieved for hydronic systems in large areas or entire homes because of their expensive components and operational costs.
Hydronic systems can be installed under any type of flooring. Most hydronic systems require hot water tubing to be installed in a 2 to 4 inch bed of light concrete and are best installed during the initial construction because of its weight load demands and adjustments to floor height. Recent low-mass products have been developed to avoid these challenges by fitting the tubing into pre-cut wood panels making hydronic systems more convenient and possible for most major remodeling projects.
If you want to heat smaller areas like a bathroom or kitchen, a hydronic floor heating system may not be the best value for your project. The complexity and cost of installing the system, along with the long-term maintenance and up-keep required, is not worth the small amount you will save in operational costs.
With warm air, your skin is tricked into thinking that the living environment is comfortable, until your skin has to give up its heat to another object! If you want unsurpassed warmth and comfort, then, without question, your choice should be radiant heat. It is the most comfortable, healthiest and most natural heating process available. In fact, it has been around since the time of the ancient Romans. They directed hot gasses through channels beneath marble floors to warm them.
Although directing hot gasses through channels is not an option for most of us today, the application of radiant heat is very much available. Basically, radiant heat is the transfer of heat from a warm surface to a cooler surface. Radiant energy travels through space without heating the space itself. It only turns into heat when it contacts a cooler surface. The Radiant Panel Association uses the following analogy to describe radiant energy: “Hold your hand over a cup of coffee and feel the heat. The logical conclusion is that heat rises. Logical maybe, but incorrect! ‘Hot air’ rises but ‘heat’ can travel in any direction. That is why you can feel the heat of the cup when you place your hand to the side of it.”