Answering Questions for Pros on Hydronic Heating
Q. What is hydronic heating?
A. Hydronic heating systems use a boiler to heat water that is used as the heat transfer medium. The heated water or steam is then circulated to heat distributors located throughout the home. These heat distributors can be radiators, finned tube baseboard, radiant tubing, towel warmers, and kick-space heaters. The boiler also can be used to indirectly heat domestic water and whirlpool baths and can be used for ice and snow melting on sidewalks and driveways.
Q. Why is consumer interest in hydronic heating rapidly growing?
A. Homeowners are demanding comfortable and efficient heating for their homes. Hydronic heating provides draft-free, quiet, and environmentally clean heat with no hot or cold spots. Furthermore, hydronic heating allows each room or area of the home to be zoned separately. Hydronic heating is also energy efficient because it is delivered through completely sealed heat distribution systems with minimal loss of heat.
Q. What is the advantage in using plastic tubing in hydronic installations?
A. The advantage for both the installer and the homeowner is that plastic tubing is easy to install. Tubing is small and flexible, so it can quickly snake between walls, above ceilings and under floors to the heating distribution points throughout the house. The placement of tubing can be done at the same time the boiler is being installed, making the entire job more speedy and efficient. Only plastic tubing designed and rated for heating applications should be used for hydronic installations.
Q. How do I get training for installing hydronic equipment?
A. Click here for educational opportunities for hydronic equipment installers, including installation of baseboard, radiator, and radiant heating systems.
Q. Where do I find out how to service a specific piece of hydronic equipment?
A. For servicing specific hydronic equipment, contact the manufacturer directly. Click here for hydronic equipment manufacturers that are members of AHRI.
Q. How can a customer with tile floors in the bathroom and kitchen have warm floors in winter?
A. Radiant heating warms floors in the bathroom, kitchen, and throughout a home. This form of hydronic heating sends warm water through extremely durable tubing that is installed in or underneath floors, as well as in walls and ceilings.
Q. How does radiant heating work?
A. Radiant heating systems circulate warm water through tubing that is installed in floors, walls, or ceilings. This form of hydronic heating warms people and objects, and not air. Heat flows through the room gently and completely without breezes, hot spots, or cold spots. Radiant heating systems circulate warm water through tubing that is installed in floors, walls, or ceilings.
Q. What is a “radiant-ready” house?
A. The most economical time to include radiant heating is when the house is being built. Many builders today install radiant tubing in the floors, sidewalks, and driveways of homes they are building even if the home buyer does not ask that the radiant heating be hooked up. This makes it a simple and cost-effective matter to switch to the radiant heating system whenever the homeowner wishes.
Q. Can hydronic heating be used outside the house?
A. Yes. Hydronic heating can be used to heat swimming pools and whirlpool spas by use of a boiler or pool heater and a heat exchanger. In addition, durable tubing also can be installed in sidewalks and driveways to melt snow and ice.
Q. How can air conditioning be used in a hydronically-heated home?
A. There are several air conditioning (AC) systems that work well with Hydronic Heating:
High Velocity Mini Duct System: This system transfers air to small (2" inner diameter), round outlets in each room of the home through flexible tubing that weaves in between spaces in the walls, ceilings or floors. Installation is easy, economical, and nearly unobtrusive.
Split-System Central Air Conditioner: In this system, a condensing unit is installed outside the home and a matching indoor air handler unit or furnace with coil is inside the home. Ductwork transfers the cooled air throughout the home.
Separate Standard Air Conditioning System: Many homeowners choose to install a separate AC system along with their Hydronic Heating system. In a typical installation, a rooftop AC unit sends cool air to the home through small flexible tubing (similar to a High-Velocity AC System), and is distributed by small vents in the ceilings of each room of the home.
Q. How do high-efficiency condensing boilers work?
A. Condensing boilers achieve high efficiency by capturing and using heat from the combustion process that would otherwise be wasted. The boiler’s heat exchanger uses the exhaust gases from the combustion process to preheat water as it enters the boiler. In addition, the water vapor produced in the combustion process condenses back into water and also releases heat that is then re-used. Together, these two processes create the high efficiencies associated with condensing boilers. Just as important as the efficiency of the condensing boiler is the efficiency and proper installation of the overall heating system to which the boiler is a component. To achieve maximum efficiency, a total heating system approach is required.
Q. What are the advantages of acquiring NATE Certification?
A. North American Technician Excellence, Inc. (NATE) is the leading certification program for technicians in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) industry and is the only testing process supported by the entire industry. According to NATE, a recent survey from Service Roundtable shows that NATE-certified technicians have fewer callbacks than technicians who aren’t NATE-certified. In addition, when on a warranty call, their expenses are about 30% lower than non-certified technicians — and their billing efficiency is also higher than technicians who are not NATE-certified. For details about NATE Certification.
Q. Where do I find the sizing specifications for hydronic equipment?
A. Sizing specifications are available on Hydronic equipment manufacturers’ websites.
Q. For what types and sizes of buildings is hydronic heating best suited?
A. Hydronic heating is appropriate for any residential home or building. For larger homes, two smaller boilers may be used in sequence, with the second boiler only operating when it is needed. Larger buildings, such as schools and hospitals, may install multiple boilers operating in sequence.
Q. Can hydronic heating be used in a home that also has other types of heating systems?
A. Yes. There are hydronic heating solutions for converting or supplementing existing warm air, heat pump, and solar systems.