Hydronic Heating Vs its Old, Electric Cousin


Wow. We’ve made it to the depth of Winter and what a Winter it has become with successive polar cold-fronts delivering unprecedented low-level snow across parts of Victoria. We’ve long surpassed the point of maintaining warmth with a few extra layers. Now is the time when your home heating is rarely or never turned off and you just have to accept the inevitable utility bill lurking around the corner. Of course, with hydronic heating, that lurking bill isn’t nearly as terrifying, such is its economic efficiency. There are, of course, other forms of in-floor radiant heating, such as electric, but does it stack-up?

Both hydronic floor heating and electric floor heating operate on the principle of convection. This involves natural air-circulation forcing warm air up from the floor to the rest of the room. In-floor heating is also a smart means of eliminating the floor-surface as one of the major sources of heat-loss in any building.

And yes, you have essentially the same options for installing electric and hydronic heating systems. Generally speaking, they can be installed ‘wet’ or ‘dry’– such as within the concrete mix of floor slab or the screed layer below tiles and carpet, or fixed to the joists or under battened-out timber floors.

However, these ‘similar’ heating methods do have their differences and they are noteworthy. For instance, electric radiant floors are usually cheaper to install than hydronic heating systems but they are significantly more expensive to operate. Subsequently, an electric system’s cost-effectiveness, or complete lack thereof, is a real sore-point over the life of your home.

For electric heating to truly achieve any level of economic efficiency your home must have significant thermal mass and even then, you’d need your electricity provider to offer time-of-use electricity rates. The theory being, if your floor’s mass is large enough it can store sufficient heat during off-peak tariff times to carry through peak-tariff periods. In all, it’s fair to say, you’re relying on some pretty significant variables for this to occur.

In contrast, hydronic heating can be pricier to install but the lifetime cost-saving heavily outweighs the initial outlay. And this point, in particular, is growing more important with each passing Winter, as the cost of utilities continues to outstrip CPI. Where electric floor heating may have been quite admirable in the 1990s, times have changed. The uptake of hydronic heating is flourishing, particularly with the growing popularity of polished concrete floors.

The environmental gains of hydronic heating are also winning customers. Through the use of a boiler, which in our case is exclusively the industry-leading Baxi boiler brand, your hydronic system can be powered by more environmentally-clean resources, such as natural gas and LPG.

Author: nick thorn