What Is Hydronic Heating and How Does It Work?

July 04th, 2022
Hydronic Heating

Famed for their incredible comfort, affordable running costs, and eco-friendly operation, hydronic systems are fast picking up steam in Australia. Hydronic heating systems can be used in commercial and residential settings, and they offer excellent heat and an added touch of luxury.

If you’re interested in hydronic heating in Melbourne, the experts at Australian Climate Systems have you covered. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what hydronic heating is. We’ll cover its long history, its main components, and how hydronic heating systems work. We’ll also outline the most popular methods for integrating hydronic products into your property, as well as covering many other FAQs.

Let’s get started with everything you need to know about this innovative heat source.

What Is Hydronic Heating? From Ancient Rome to the Living Room

Unlike most heating and cooling systems, a hydronic heater utilises a combination of heated water and radiant heat to warm your home. 

A hydronic system warms up water and circulates it through insulated pipes. The hot water ends up in underfloor heating systems, towel rails, radiator panels, and more depending on what you have installed. As well as heating these objects, you will feel radiant heat throughout the room.

If you’ve ever felt the sun on your face, you’ve experienced radiant heating in action. The sun isn’t blowing heat towards you like a conventional heater, but you can still feel its warmth. In the same way, your heated floor, towel rail or radiator will radiate heat throughout your home even though it isn’t blowing around air.

If you’re looking for even, consistent heat that won’t dry you out or aggravate your allergies, hydronic heating could be ideal for you.

So, when was hydronic heating invented? While it is often spoken about as a new technology, hydronic heating and similar methods have been used for years! Natural hot springs were used to heat buildings in 14th century Greenland, while the concept of underfloor radiant heaters dates back to the Ancient Romans.

These systems have been refined and improved over the years, and today, they’re available in your living room, office, or any other building.

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How Does Hydronic Heating Warm Up the Home?

Now that you know the basics of hydronic heating, let’s explain a bit more about how this heating system works.

The water used in a hydronic system is heated in the normal way. You have a gas or electric boiler or a heat pump that warms up the water. That water travels through a sealed network of pipes to your hydronic heating products. Most hydronic heaters also have a thermostat that allows you to precisely set the temperature.

We’ve already mentioned radiant heating, but hydronic heaters can actually use all three forms of heating to warm your property – conduction, convection, and radiant heat!

When the hot water comes into physical contact with your towel rail, radiator, or in-slab heating system, it warms them up (that’s conduction!)

Hydronic products that use trenches and grilles have entry points where cold air can enter. Because heat naturally rises, cold air will enter the grilles and warm air will come out, all without the need for a fan (that’s convection!)

Finally, your heated hydronic products can radiate warmth throughout the room just like the sun’s rays (that’s radiant heat!) The radiant heat is absorbed into other objects, like the walls, for consistent heating throughout the room with no cold spots.

Breaking Down the Parts of a Hydronic Heating System

Here are the five main parts that power your hydronic heater.

1. A boiler unit to heat the water

2. A pump to push the water into your home

3. PVC or copper piping to carry the water to your hydronic products

4. Your hydronic heating products of choice, from towel rails to radiators to underfloor systems

5. A thermostat that can be programmed and controlled just like any other!

We’ve broken down the parts in your hydronic heating system, but you don’t want your hydronic heater to break down! Be sure to invest in maintenance services to keep your hydronic heater at its best. If you’re experiencing problems with your system, you can also call on Australian Climate Systems for hydronic heater repair.

What Are the Most Popular Hydronic Heating Products?

Some of the most common ways to use hydronic heating include towel rails, radiators, trench systems, and underfloor systems.

When people picture hydronic heating, they’re usually dreaming of underfloor heating. Available as in-slab or in-screed options, heated floors offer the luxury of complete underfoot comfort. Depending on the design of your building, one of these options may be suitable for your property. Underfloor hydronic heating can be installed all throughout the building and is most popular in bathrooms.

If you can step out of the shower to a warm floor, you’ll also want a warm towel. Heated towel rails work exactly how you think they would. Hot water is transferred to your towel rail, which results in a toasty towel for post-shower comfort!

Hydronic wall heating is usually achieved via radiators. Modern radiator panels come in a range of shapes and sizes, and they’re definitely not the eyesore they used to be. Sleek and attractive, radiators are perfect for homes, healthcare settings, and care homes.

Trench systems are installed at floor level and usually skirt the perimeter of your room. Fitted with a grille, these trenches take in cold air and heat it up. The warmed air then naturally rises into your room, all without the need for a fan.

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Does Hydronic Heating Use Gas or Electricity to Heat Water?

Many of us prefer gas or electric heating, and luckily, hydronic systems don’t discriminate.

You can use a gas boiler (LPG or natural gas) or an electric-powered boiler, as well as a heat pump system. Heat pumps use electricity, but instead of directly generating heat, they absorb heat from their environment for greater energy efficiency.

Your boiler could even be powered by other sources, like wood pellets or diesel, but gas or electric will usually be the main contenders for your hydronic heater. 

Hydronic Heating Is Incredibly Safe, Healthy, and Efficient – Here’s Why!

Hydronic heating is more than just a gimmick or an added luxury. It also offers a range of practical, day-to-day benefits, some of which are even more impressive than what traditional forced air systems can offer.

Hydronic heaters are safe, good for you and the environment, and easy on your wallet in the long term. Here are just some benefits of hydronic heating.

SAFETY: Hydronic heaters use boilers, but the water they produce isn’t boiling hot. Just like when you wash the dishes or have a shower, you can expect pleasant temperatures that can be adjusted according to your needs. You will never come into contact with the water itself, and the heated surfaces won’t be hot enough to burn you.

Hydronic heaters do not utilise advanced electrical systems, meaning you won’t need to worry about electrical faults either.

HEALTHY FOR HUMANS: Does turning on the heater usually make your skin feel dry and your throat feel scratchy? This is probably because forced air systems blow around all the pollutants and particles present in the air. 

Australia is the asthma capital of the world and Melbourne is particularly prone to producing asthmatics. While cleaning, filter changes, and system maintenance can minimise the irritation of forced air systems, a hydronic heater can remove the problem altogether. With no air being blown around, you won’t have to worry about asthma attacks, allergic reactions, dry skin, scratchy throats, rashes, headaches, and all the other issues that may be triggered by traditional heaters and coolers. If you’ve had health problems when using heaters and coolers before, a hydronic system may be exactly what you need.

HEALTHY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Hydronic heating systems produce fewer greenhouse gasses than any other heating and cooling systems, making them incredibly eco-friendly. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint with an environmentally friendly heating system, hydronic is the answer for you.

ENERGY EFFICIENT AND AFFORDABLE: Hydronic heaters achieve their low greenhouse gas emissions thanks to their incredible thermal efficiency. As an energy-efficient system, your hydronic heater will transform the vast majority of the energy it produces into heat for your home. Less wasted energy means more savings for you.

How Expensive Is Hydronic Heating? Installation and Running Costs Explained

As with most heating and cooling systems, the price of installation will be the highest upfront expense you face. Hydronic heating installations will definitely be more expensive than split systems or gas log fires, and they can even be more expensive than ducted heating installations.

The final cost of your hydronic heating will depend on the size of your property and the different products you want to install. Underfloor heating will generally increase the installation cost while retrofitting a hydronic system will be more difficult and costly than installing hydronic heating during a new build.

While the upfront costs may be more expensive, you can expect to enjoy significant savings on running costs. Hydronic heating systems are up to 35% more efficient than ducted heaters, which will translate to cost savings during the cold winter months. In calculations provided by Sustainability Victoria, gas hydronic heating consistently ranked as one of the cheapest central heating options.

To determine the best solution for your property, contact Australian Climate Solutions. We can help you decide if hydronic heating is right for you and hand-select the best products for efficiency, affordability, and whole-home comfort.

Do Hydronic Systems Offer Cooling?

You don’t hear much about hydronic cooling systems, but they are technically possible. A hydronic system that can heat and cool provides you with a convenient, year-round climate control solution. However, hydronic heating and cooling systems are most common in commercial spaces, and many homeowners opt for hydronic heating and a separate refrigerated or evaporative cooler.

Can Hydronic Heaters Be Installed in Existing Homes?

Hydronic heating is often recommended for new-build homes so that the underfloor heating and all your accessories can be installed with ease. Retrofitted hydronic heating is possible but may require different installation methods. Additionally, not all properties are suitable for underfloor hydronic heating. If this is the case, you may be able to install towel rails, radiators, and other hydronic products but not underfloor heating.

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Can You Customise the Look of Hydronic Heating Panels?

Modern hydronic heating panels are designed to look sleek, seamless, and unobtrusive in your home or business. Panel radiators often come in a range of colours, and in some cases, they can even be custom-painted. Rest assured that the hydronic heating products offered by Australian Climate Systems will look at home in your property!

Find Out if Hydronic Heating Is Right for You!

Hydronic heating isn’t for everyone, but if your property is suitable, you will benefit from one of the most energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective systems on the market! Hydronic heating is safe, healthy, affordable to run, and great for Mother Earth. You won’t have to worry about fans or air blowing on your face, and you can customise your hydronic setup to suit your lifestyle.

Are you interested in hydronic heating in Doncaster, Templestowe, Glen Waverley, or the surrounding suburbs? Professional installation services and expert advice are crucial to getting the most out of your new heater.

Australian Climate Systems can guide you with everything from sales and installation to ongoing maintenance of your hydronic heater. To discuss hydronic heating or arrange a service, contact us today. Australian Climate Systems are Melbourne’s leaders in heating and cooling!

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