As we leave winter behind and head into the warmer months of the year, there’s no better time to consider your home’s heating needs.
Why wait until the depths of winter when that HVAC system or your radiators run into trouble?
Consider how you are going to heat your home now – then you can test the system and make sure that everything is in good working order when the colder months hit us again.
Here we consider radiant heating: what are the different types available and the advantages of installing such systems?
What Are the Different Types of Radiant Heating?
Many Calgary homes have a radiant heating system, which distributes heat around the home by heating electric cables, water or air.
There are three basic types of radiant heating system:
1. Electric Radiant Systems
This type of radiant heating system employs a series of cables (metal coils usually wrapped in sheets of polymer) installed between the floor and the subfloor of a building.
These cables are heated electrically, thereby heating the floor. This system can also be used in walls or even the ceiling.
It is generally best for small rooms with substantial floors (rather than standard wooden floors), where some extra heating is needed, such as a bedroom or bathroom.
It is a simple and relatively low-cost option to install and is a long-lasting solution; but because of ongoing electricity costs, it is not practical for heating an entire home.
2. Hydronic or water-based radiant systems
A hydronic or water-based radiant heating system relies on a central boiler to heat water, which is then pumped throughout the home through tubing below the floor or in the walls.
Boilers are heated by natural gas, propane, oil, wood, solar power or electricity and the latest models are highly energy-efficient.
Hydronic radiant heating also heats the home in a quick, consistent and uniform manner, meaning that each room will feel warm quickly and be heated to a similar temperature.
One potential downside is, with the use of water, any leaks in this type of system can be expensive to repair and may cause water damage.
However, the pipes used are generally robust enough to withstand Calgary’s notorious climate.
3. Air-based radiant systems
The third type of radiant heating system uses heated air, which is heated by a furnace and transferred around the building through pipes.
While this can be a relatively cost-effective option, these systems have traditionally suffered from lower performance because air has a low capacity to retain heat.
However, they are quite cost-effective and are making something of a comeback in Calgary homes with the advance of air-heating technologies.
With no liquid used, any leaks are less serious than with water-based systems.
Radiant home heating installation
The installation processes for radiant home heating systems vary greatly because of the major differences between them.
They can all heat the floors or walls (or ceilings) and require a series of piping or cables but the similarities really end there.
With electric radiant systems, installation requires:
- Heating cables (often wrapped in sheets of plastic)
- A temperature sensor
- A thermostat
It is easy to install and may even be a do-it-yourself job. Cables are usually mounted on the subfloor and the electrical work is relatively simple.
Hydronic systems are much more complex to install. They require:
- A central boiler
- A pump
- Fuel lines
- Panels that slot beneath the floor
It is highly inadvisable to attempt the installation yourself. Hire a trained technician to look after the entire project.
Radiant heating efficiency
In terms of energy efficiency, hydronic systems win the day.
The timer or thermostat prevents floors from over-heating but they are usually only installed in small rooms because of the high running costs. Electricity powers the whole system and this would be inadvisable for an entire home.
Hydronic systems can use a variety of fuels to power the boiler. They can be used to heat the whole home and do it more efficiently than a forced-air system because of the lack of energy loss through leakages.
Forced air heating systems use ductwork that is prone to air leaking out and heat being lost.
Radiators need to be heated to high temperatures to create enough warmth while radiant heating can heat a room adequately at lower temperatures.
Radiant heating performance
Radiant heating systems have a number of performance advantages over other types of heating systems.
For starters, they produce a more consistent heat throughout rooms; radiators heat the air nearest them first, which can lead to cold spots in the room.
They also produce no noise, unlike a forced-air system, which creates a considerable roar.
Next, radiant heating requires little maintenance. Many systems come with generous guarantees lasting decades.
Finally, being hidden under the floor means that your heating system is essentially invisible and does not take up space or impact on design tastes (no vents, ducts, or radiators).
Which type of radiant heating for your home?
Many Calgary homeowners prefer radiant heating due to the types of benefits detailed above: most notably, the energy efficiency and performance factors.
Of the types detailed, most popular in Calgary is hydronic heating, probably because of the lower running costs and consistent performance.
If you’d like to discuss the heating options for your home, speak to the professionals at Alpha Plumbing.