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  • Underfloor heating with collector in the room

    What is Hydronic Heating?

July 2019

With hot water recirculating through pipes and panels around your home, you could be enjoying energy-efficient warmth all winter long.

Hydronic heating, which warms your home using hot water or coolant, is renowned for its energy efficiency. Plus, it creates such a comfortable warmth. Let’s take a look at how it works, and why it’s becoming so popular in Australia.

How does hydronic heating work?

The water in a hydronic system is heated in a boiler (which could be powered by gas, wood fire or a solar system). Then, sealed pipes carry the water to different rooms in the house, where underfloor heating, trench convectors, panel radiators or heated towel rails are installed to release the heat into the room.

These heat emitters release radiant heat, which is then absorbed by objects around the room (compared to other forms of heating that blow hot air around a room – which stirs up dust and allergens).

It’s an efficient, silent and steady source of warmth during the colder months.

Installing hydronic heating

Ideally, hydronic heating is installed when you are building a home – so you can run the pipes through the walls and in the floors before they are sealed and finished. That said, you can retrofit hydronic heating, with the exception of installing underfloor heating into an existing slab!

Here are the elements you would need:

  • A boiler unit and pump – there are regulations about where this should be situated in your home, as it needs good ventilation. You can shop around for the most energy-efficient model that suits the size of your house and your budget.
  • Sealed pipes – these pipes will carry the heated water from room to room, passing the water through the various heat emitters. It’s important that these pipes are well insulated, so the water doesn’t lose heat as it travels to the heat emitters.
  • Heat emitters – these include panel radiators (which are affixed to the wall), underfloor heating (pipes that run under your floor), trench convectors (a panel that is inserted into the floor with a vent over the top) or towel rails. The types you choose can depend on your home’s layout and budget.
  • Thermostat – most hydronic heating systems come with a thermostat (or two or three) so you can dial up or down the warmth in different areas of the house as needed.

Benefits of hydronic heating

The main drawcards of hydronic heating include:

  • Energy efficiency – hydronic heating is regarded as one of the more cost-effective forms of heating, helping to reduce your energy bills.
  • Peace and quiet – there’s no noise coming from a hydronic heater. It’s completely silent.
  • Safety – the panels generally only get to around 75 degrees Celsius, which means that, while they are warm to touch, there’s no chance of serious burns.
  • Less airborne allergens – there is no hot air being blown around the room, which means less dust, less cleaning and a more allergy-free environment.

Like any heating system, there are a few drawbacks. The big one is the installation cost, particularly when retrofitted into your existing home. Another is the fact that it’s only a heating system – running cold water through the pipes won’t cool your house down on a hot day! Plus, it can take up to 30 minutes to start feeling the warmth.

How much does hydronic heating cost?

Because there are so many variants – the size of your boiler, the size of your house, the type of heat emitters you choose, the effort involved in installation, and so on – it’s hard to pin a cost to hydronic heating. As a very rough guide, for an average 3-bedroom house, you could be looking at up to $10,000 fully installed.

Once installed, Sustainability Victoria estimates the annual energy cost for gas hydronic heating of a medium-sized house (160m2) to be between $1,290 and $1,545.1

The final word

If you’re looking for a more energy-efficient way to keep your home snug and warm in winter, then you could consider hydronic heating – a silent, safe and dust-free form of heating that can warm up your entire home.

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