Are you tired of your noisy, inefficient heating system that blows hot air one minute and cold air the next? Well, have no fear – hydronic heating is here!
While these systems might sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, we’re here to tell you that the rumours are all true: hydronic heating is a fantastic, real-life solution to your heating woes.
However, like many options on the market, it also has its perceived downsides.
In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of hydronic heating, helping you to make a reliable, informed decision on the heating solution that’s best-fit to your needs.
Of course, if you need any help, our super-friendly and award-winning G Store HVAC team is here to assist. With a wide range of heating/cooling solutions to offer – many of which are likely more affordable and accessible than you think – we can help you find the right one for you. Give us a call anytime on 1300 766 940, and we’ll take it from there.
Let’s kick off with the basics.
What is hydronic heating?
Hydronic heating is a type of heating system that uses hot water or steam to transfer heat throughout a building.
Unlike traditional heating systems that blow hot air, hydronic heating uses pipes to circulate hot water or steam from a boiler to radiators, baseboards or other heat emitters. These emitters then release heat into the room, creating a warm and comfortable environment.
Hydronic heating is widely known for its energy efficiency, quiet operation, and ability to maintain a consistent temperature. However, it can be more expensive upfront and require periodic maintenance. Overall, these systems are regarded as a modern and highly effective way to keep your home beautifully warm and cozy.
Hydronic heating systems offer numerous advantages over traditional heating systems, including quiet operation, energy efficiency, and improved air quality. However, like any heating system, there are also some disadvantages to consider when deciding if hydronic heating is the right choice for your home.
Hydronic heating has a higher upfront cost
One of the primary disadvantages of hydronic heating is the higher upfront cost/investment level when compared to other systems (such as gas heaters, electric heaters, and reverse-cycle air conditioners).
Hydronic systems generally require a boiler, pipes, and radiators or other heat emitters to be installed throughout the home, which can be a significant upfront expense. If you’re considering a hydronic heating system that also offers cooling in the warmer months, you’ll also need to consider the upfront cost of a heat pump.
According to ServiceSeeking and other leading quote comparison facilities, the average cost to install a hydronic heating system currently sits at around AUD $10,000-15,000, depending on the size of the home and the type/quality of system being installed.
In comparison, gas heaters can cost between AUD $1,000 to $5,000 to install, while electric heaters often fall between AUD $500 (for very cheap/inefficient models) to $3,000 to install. Remember that these are average estimates and that you should always consider the quality and reliability of the product you choose to install in your home.
Now, while it might be easy to baulk at those prices, consider what a long-term investment might look like when it comes to safe, reliable and supremely energy-efficient technology in your home.
In this sense, it’s very important to consider the long-term benefits of hydronic heating when weighing up the options you have for your initial budget.
Hydronic systems are generally more energy-efficient than other types of heating systems, which can result in lower monthly heating bills over time. In research conducted by the Australian government, hydronic heating systems were found to be on average 30% more efficient than forced-air heating systems, which can result in significant cost savings over the life of the system.
While the time it takes for a hydronic heating system to pay for itself can vary depending on several factors, the Australian government’s “Your Home” guide suggests that a well-designed hydronic heating system can do so in as little as 5 years.
When you consider that the lifespan of a well-maintained hydronic heating system can be up to 30 years or more, worries about upfront cost begin to pale in comparison to the huge range of savings on offer – that is, if you can get yourself to think long-term!
Hydronic heating systems require maintenance
Another potential disadvantage of hydronic heating is the degree of maintenance required.
While hydronic systems are generally low-maintenance, they do require periodic upkeep to ensure proper function. This can include tasks such as bleeding air from the system, checking for leaks, and maintaining the boiler.
According to a recent report generated by ServiceSeeking, the average cost of maintenance for a hydronic heating system is around AUD 200-$500 per year – however, it’s important to consider this cost alongside the challenges of a poor-quality, poorly installed cheaper gas/electric system that may need replacing after just a couple of years, at a best.
It’s likely your current car costs around $600/year to register, right? When you consider the long-term savings and benefits of a hydronic system, its annual maintenance cost begins to look like a drop in the water.
[Side note: we strongly encourage you to consider an electric or hybrid vehicle alongside the steps you’re taking towards a more sustainable home living environment. The benefits are huge. While we don’t currently sell electric vehicles, we’re more than happy to have a chat with you about the electric vehicle’s role in an all-electric home living environment!]
Hydronic heating systems may respond more slowly to your needs
One final perceived disadvantage of hydronic heating is the potential for a slower response time compared to other types of heating systems.
Hydronic systems heat surfaces, such as radiators or baseboards, which then radiate heat into the room. While this special process produces a comfortable, lasting radiant heat that feels wonderful on skin and in home living environments, it does mean that some rooms may take longer to warm than would be the case with forced-air systems (which blow warm air directly into the space).
However, once the system has heated up, it can maintain a consistent temperature with minimal energy usage. You also have the ability to “zone” manage your home, and may choose to keep particular zones heated in an ongoing manner during particular parts of the year.
Remember, too, that hydronic heating systems can be used for cooling as well as heating, by using a process called “chilled water cooling.” In this process, chilled water is circulated through a network of pipes and used to cool the air in a building. The chilled water is typically produced by a separate chiller unit, which is located outside the building.
To use a hydronic heating system for cooling, the system needs to be designed to allow for the circulation of chilled water. This typically involves the installation of additional piping and the addition of a chiller unit – or heat pump system. Once the chilled water system elements of the system are installed, it can be controlled using the same thermostat and controls as the heating system.
So – is hydronic heating worth it?
In terms of environmental impact, hydronic heating systems are generally considered to be more environmentally friendly than other types of heating systems. What’s more, they can be made even more efficient by pairing with heat pumps and solar PV panel systems, providing a surprisingly flexible “catch-all” solution for increasing the energy-efficiency of your home.
Overall, while there may be some perceived disadvantages to hydronic heating systems (such as the upfront cost and slower response time), the long-term benefits – such as energy efficiency and improved air quality – can make them a worthwhile investment for the long-term value-add of your home.
When considering a hydronic heating system, it’s important to weigh the upfront costs against the long-term benefits, and to choose a reputable contractor for installation and maintenance.