Radiant heating most often refers to the installation of tubing under the floor to circulate a warm liquid usually water and referred to as hydronic heating to impart heat to the room primarily through infrared radiation but with some naturally-occurring convection. Powered by a small boiler, radiant heat is cleaner than forced air because no dust gets blown around the house.
Radiant Heat Advantages
Hydronic heating offers many advantages over forced air furnaces or baseboard heating. Some of these include…
- More efficient than baseboard heating
- Usually more efficient than forced-air furnace heating
- Can use gas, oil, wood or solar energy
- Minimizes circulation of dust and molds, thereby making it more comfortable for allergy sufferers
Radiant heating systems are more comfortable because it uniformly heats the lower half of a room, where the people are. A report from the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet) states that: Radiators and other forms of point heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels.
They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.
Lower Operating Temperatures
Radiant systems often operate at lower temperatures because the heating surface your floor is much larger than that of other heating systems. The larger radiating surface simply needs considerably lower temperatures to achieve the same level of heat transfer, offering an improved room climate and more comfortable humidity levels. The temperature of the floor (the heating surface) is typically from 29 – 35°C (84 – 95°F).
Types of Hydronic Systems
Hydronic heating is most often installed in new homes by a licensed heating contractor as a sub-contractor in renovation projects, though there is nothing stopping you from retrofitting an older home with radiant heating. It does mean completely tearing up the floors, though, and that can be a big job in itself.
As the installation of a hydronic heating system involves laying and connecting lots of pipe, a lot of the work can be done by the handyman who has good plumbing skills and the proper tools.
There are two ways in which hydronic heating is installed.
Wet installation: this involves placing the radiant tubing into a bed of concrete, which has advantages such as the concrete protecting the tubing while also acting as a thermal mass to absorb the heat and radiate the warmth evenly throughout the room. As you can guess, this system is rarely used when renovating an older home.
Dry installation: often called plate systems, this radiant heating method uses pre-built panels with tracks for the radiant tubing in them. This makes it simpler to lay the tubes before covering the system with flooring material.
Lacking the thermal mass of concrete, the dry method can require more careful placement of insulation along with the addition of heat reflectors. This photo clearly shows a typical installation using the dry plate system.
All heating systems have moving parts and should be service at least once ever two years. Annual service is a better option, but it’s usually okay if you skip the odd year here and there. A great Vancouver heating service company is…
Vancouver, BC V5N 2S7