Hydronic Radiant Heat Vs. Electric Heat

Oct 15, 2019

Are you building a new home or renovating or expanding an existing one? If so, it is crucial to determine how you will heat it. Two popular systems are hydronic or hot water and electric heat, so let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Hydronic or hot water (baseboard and radiant floor heating) involves installing water-heated tubing throughout the space in the floor in the case of radiant floor or along the walls for baseboard. A boiler or water heater is used to heat the water or liquid, typically using a combustion fuel. A circulation system moves the water in the tubing within the floor or baseboard supply lines, distributing the heat. Water expands when it is heated, so an expansion tank is typically needed to give the water more space as it heats up. Finally, a thermostat gives occupants the ability to control the heating system. The installation varies by design and the floor covering.

Runtal electric heating systems consist of baseboard heaters, wall panels, freestanding, or towel warmers for the bathroom. Our smart thermostat allows occupants to control the heating system at home or from a mobile app. These units require no additional equipment such as a boiler and expansion tank.

 

Advantages of Electric Heating Systems

Quick Installation Process

Baseboard heating systems are straightforward to install and can be completed in a matter of hours, not days or even weeks. Because of the complexity of installing a radiant floor heating system, it can cause construction delays if any issues arise. 

 

Lower Upfront Cost

Installing a hydronic radiant floor heating system requires a much larger upfront investment in heating equipment than electric heat. Hot water radiant heat requires a boiler, pumps, in-floor tubing or piping and reflective insulation. The installation cost is almost always much higher as well, boosting the project cost. 

 

Less Space

Hydronic systems require a boiler, pumps, and possibly an expansion tank and a propane, natural gas or fuel oil tank. This equipment requires storage space, typically in a mechanical room. Electric heating units attach to the wall, typically under a window. Thus, electric baseboard units require little if any floor space.

 

Ideal for Retrofits

As the name implies, in-floor radiant heating is installed under the flooring. Although advanced planning can allow it to work well for new construction, it can be challenging to install in remodels and room additions. In some projects, installation involves tearing up a perfectly good floor, or walls boosting the project cost and creating waste. Electric heaters integrate easily with nearly any project, large or small.

 

Seamless Installation

In the case of hydronic radiant floor heating systems, conductive flooring materials, such as tile, porcelain, or concrete are required It is therefore not ideal for wood floors, plastic laminate, linoleum, or carpeting. This requirement limits flooring options. Conversely, electric baseboard heating or wall panels do not require particular flooring materials for greater design freedom. 

 

Easy to Expand

Electric heating has a very simple design and is well suited for room additions. These simple systems do not require being connected to a centralized system, enabling a seamless retrofitting process.

 

Ideal for Vacation Homes

Hydronic heating systems often contain water in the tubing. This means the home shouldn’t get below freezing, or the tubing could be damaged. One way around this is to drain the hot water in the tubing. Hydronic radiant floor systems also require more time to fully heat a house. Thus, it isn’t ideal for applications where the home needs to be heated many degrees in a short period of time. By contrast, electric systems can quickly heat a home to optimum temperatures.

 

Cleaner Indoor Air

As concern about home air health and safety increases, many homeowners and apartment dwellers want to avoid using combustion fuels. Electric baseboard heating requires no fuels, such as natural gas or propane. 

 

Great for Apartments

Landlords typically prefer having tenants pay their own heating bills. With electric heating, this is easy and simple to achieve, especially if each unit is metered separately.

 

Integrates Well With Renewable Energy

Many homeowners are looking for cleaner sources of energy to heat their homes. As more polluting power plants are phased out, the national electricity supply is getting greener. Also, solar and wind energy are some of the cleanest sources of electricity available. Unlike hot water boilers that require natural gas or propane, baseboard heating can be powered exclusively with clean energy. 

 

Energy Efficiency

Hydronic or hot water heating is known for being energy-efficient. This is especially true in older, inefficient homes with high heating demands. Now, many new homes are highly energy efficient because they are well insulated and tightly constructed. When houses have effective insulation and other energy-saving features, the benefits of an energy-conserving heating system have less impact on home energy bills, making electric heating an effective alternative

Ultimately, the ideal heating system for a home or room addition depends on numerous factors. When a simple, low-cost solution is preferred, an electric baseboard or wall panel system is ideal. New smart thermostats even allow occupants to control home temperatures from mobile devices, further enhancing comfort while saving energy.