Comparing Electric Vs. Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating For Your New Home

Getting the exact features you want is the best part of involving yourself in the design process of your new home. One less common feature that may appeal to many custom home buyers is radiant heating. Radiant heating of any kind can make a home feel much cozier and warmer than forced-air heating, but floor heating can be exceptionally luxurious and decadent.

When choosing floor heating for your new home, you will have to make one fundamental choice: electric or hydronic heating. The right option for your home will depend on your particular goals for your floor heating system, as well as your home's flooring materials.

What's The Difference?

Hydronic heating systems use warm water or steam to deliver heat throughout your home. Although many newer home buyers associate hydronic heating with radiant floor heating, this is far from its only use. The radiators found in many older buildings are an example of hydronic heating, for example. Since these systems do not rely on forced convective heating, they are all radiant systems.

Unlike hydronic systems, electric systems pass current through highly resistive wires. Because of how electrical current flows through any conductive material, high levels of resistance will create waste heat. In heating systems, this waste serves a useful purpose: generating heat to keep your home warm. Like hydronic systems, these electric systems do not rely on air currents and so produce radiant heat.

When Should You Choose Electric Heating?

Electric heating is less efficient than hydronic heating and may be insufficient to heat a home fully. In many cases, electric heating mats are used as supplemental heating to provide extra warmth on the floor. If your new home uses a forced-air heating system, then electric heating may be an excellent way to make a room feel more pleasant without the expense of installing a dedicated hydronic system.

Electric heating mats also work well in areas where it may be expensive or impractical to run pipes for hydronic heating. Although this is typically less of a concern on new construction, some areas of your home may still be difficult for installers to access.

When Should You Choose Hydronic Heating?

Hydronic heating works best as a primary heating method. Since using this type of heating requires a boiler, piping, and extra plumbing, it's not a decision to take lightly. On the other hand, hydronic systems tend to be reasonably efficient, and they can be an excellent choice for providing heat to your entire home.

In general, hydronic heating will be the right choice if you have decided not to install a furnace and forced-air heating system in your home. You can then work with your heating contractor to design the right plan for your home, including a mix of floor and standard radiant heating if necessary.

To learn more, contact a local heating service.