Hydronic Heating 101
What is hydronic
is hydronic heating?
would I want to use hydronic heating?
Since hydronic systems rely more on radiant heating, they
offer more even heating of the living space.
In a hydronic system, there’s no air blowing
around the room, so there are virtually no drafts to
make people uncomfortable. And because the hydronic
system is heating people and things via radiating
surfaces rather than hot air, the air is not getting
dried out as much as with a Forced Air System. By
not overheating the air, a hydronic system makes it
easier to maintain a comfortable humidity level
during the heating season. And note that the
thermostat can be set to a lower temperature degrees
and the room can still feel comfortable.
is a great carrier of heat. Ask a scuba diver why he
needs a wet suit when the water he’s swimming in
is 80 degrees F. He’ll tell you that water
conducts heat twenty times faster than air and,
without the wet suit, he’d loose body heat too
fast under water. The same goes for heating systems.
Air is a good insulator but not the best heating
medium. Notice that storm windows work by
having a dead air space between the two windows.
Water, on the other hand, can move a lot of Btu’s
from one place (where they are produced) to another
place (where they can be used) very efficiently.
Also, note that because more of the heat is being radiated
to the living space rather than blown into it, there
is less heat loss through the cracks around doors
and windows than there is with a forced air system,
therefore fewer Btu’s need to be produced to keep
the living space comfortable.
With hydronics, you can move 40,000 Btu’s through a 3/4" copper pipe through walls and between floors - or anywhere you need the heat - quietly and efficiently. A forced air system requires a lot of duct to move that much air with that many Btu’s into a room. This means that zoning is easy for a hydronic system. A typical home with a heat load of 160,000 Btu’s (that’s a pretty big home) needs only four little 3/4" pipes to move all the heat it needs to four different areas of the home. You can divide that heat into bedroom zones, living areas, recreation areas, etc. simply by dividing the heat coming from your heat source into little pipes.
Talking about versatility...the hydronic heat source is usually a boiler in the basement. Boilers are tried, true and very safe. But hydronics can take heat from any heat producer, such as a solar coil, ground source heat pump or a co-generation plant. Any water-cooled equipment is a potential heat source for a hydronic system.
Click to enlarge