Have you ever rushed inside from the winter cold and felt that first immense feeling of warm air as you open your door, then only to find yourself losing focus and tired an hour later? You sit down on your recliner or couch and grab a blanket because your feet are cold. You go to lean back and your sweater shifts between the back of the chair and your shoulder. Your dried skin starts to itch and you start counting the days until spring will once again let you turn your heat off. You’re not alone. You’re part of the near 70 percent of Americans who are dissatisfied with their current heating system, and you can bet that you’re almost certainly part of the 90 percent of Americans who have forced air heating installed in their home.
Hydronic heating operates by using the efficient delivery of heat through water. Since water conducts heat much more easily than air, far less energy is used to distribute heat throughout your family’s home. A sufficient heat source must be available. (Most of the time, a boiler is used for hydronic heating but, for smaller homes, cheaper, alternative sources may be adequate.) The heat is then transferred throughout the house by pipes that are located in the walls, ceiling, baseboards, or ideally, underneath your floor. These pipes circulate heat to the walls of a room, which then radiant heat waves everywhere in the house, creating a subtle, uniform warmth that provides the most efficient comfort.
Your home’s thermostat can sometimes be misleading in two significant ways. First, a thermostat can only calculate temperatures at designated points in your house. In a forced air heating system, the temperature variance in the distance from just your feet to your eye level can be as much as 15 degrees. That’s amazing, huh? If you have a two-story home or, worse, high vaulted ceilings this difference may be accentuated. Secondly, a thermostat can only gauge air temperature and not resultant temperature. Resultant temperature is the result of a combination of the humidity, air temperature, and the mean radiant temperature of the surrounding space. Resultant temperature is the best benchmark for indicating the actual comfort level inside your family’s home. You may go to a neighbor’s home and feel more comfortable and, warmer only to discover the thermostat is set to the same temperature (or possibly even lower) than your thermostat. That means your neighbor’s home has a better resultant temperature.
Most hydronic systems produce both cooling and heating options. Hydronic cooling works basically the same way as the heating system. Cold water is used in the pipes to cool the walls of your family’s home. This cooling process is still more methodical than traditional air conditioning systems. Hydronic heating usually gets the focus only because the quality variation is most evident in the winter, and the heat quality is why most homeowners chose to install the system.
The most common reason homeowners haven’t installed hydronic cooling and heating in their homes is the installation costs. Installation costs can differ significantly depending on whether your home needs a new boiler to create a ample heat source and how accommodating the structure of your home is for installing the necessary pipes. More often than not, unfortunately, too many homeowners hear that hydronic heating is too costly to install and don’t even bother to get a free estimate or to learn just how much a hydronic system can reduce their monthly utility bills.