Hydronic heating has long been used overseas to heat homes. It is getting more popular here in Australia, where ducted heating is one of the more common ways to heat a home.
Hydronic heating is also known as radiant heating. The system works by heating water, then circulating it through radiators and towel racks, pipes in the concrete slab or fan-coil units.
Common overseas, they are gaining popularity in Australia as they don’t blow heated air or dust around the home. Instead of warming the air, radiant heat warms the objects in a room – eg furniture, people, this means the room stays warmer for longer.
Ducted heating is also known as central heating. These systems are usually run using gas and are one of the most common ways to heat a home in Australia.
They work by drawing air inside, warming it up using gas combustion, then pumping it out to the rooms in your house via the ducts or vents located throughout the house.
A hydronic system can be set up to run on either gas or electricity. Most ducted systems run on gas but can also run on electricity.
Hydronic systems are more commonly associated with heating, but the technology can also be used to cool your home. The water temperature needs only to be a few degrees cooler than the desired indoor temperature. Ducted systems can use a reverse cycle conditioner to provide both heating and cooling.
Because hydronic heating doesn’t rely on fans, vents, or ducts to move the air around your home, allergens, dust, pollen etc. are not moved around by the heating system.
Also, they are easier to keep clean compared to ducted systems, where dust can build up in air vents, you can regularly wipe down hydronic radiators. And an underfloor system won’t collect dust and other allergens in the first place.
As ducted systems use fan forced air to heat your home, there will be airborne dust particles and pollens circulating in the air. Also, the air ducts, which are difficult to clean, build up with dust. If ducted systems are not serviced regularly or get damaged, there is a chance for carbon monoxide to leak out, which can be deadly.
Hydronic systems are one of the safest heating systems around. The water in the system is kept well below boiling point and the surface areas on radiators will not burn or scald. With underfloor heating there is no danger of burning yourself on a hot floor. Compared to electric blow heaters, the number one cause of house fires in Australia, hydronic heating is much safer.
Ducted heating, like hydronic heating, is much safer than open fires or electric heaters as there are no hot surfaces. However, there si a risk of fire if the system is not maintained regularly or there is a build up of dust.
Depending on factors such as radiators vs underfloor heating, new build vs renovation, a hydronic system can be more expensive to install than other systems. The cost saving comes in the ongoing running costs and maintenance, which can be 35% more cost effective than a ducted system.
Similar to any heating system, the cost of installing a ducted system will depend on factors such as the size of your home, single story vs multi story, and the height of the ceiling, but generally the cost of install will be lower than for a hydronic system. The running costs however are substantially higher, making the overall lifetime costs more expensive.
A hydronic system can be zoned, meaning you can have different temperatures in different parts of your home, helping to save energy. In addition, the thermal efficiency of a hydronic system can be up to 90%, compared to below 50% for some ducted systems. Overall, a hydronic system uses very little energy when compared to other systems and is much more environmentally friendly.
Many ducted heating systems lose heat through throughout the ducting system which reduces their energy efficiency. Poor home installation will impact all heating systems but have a higher impact on ducted systems due to moving air escaping through the cracks.
It is true that ducted heating systems are one of the most popular systems throughout Australia. But that is slowly changing, with hydronic systems becoming ever more popular. The potential higher initial cost of installation is outweighed by the many benefits – better energy efficiency, more environmentally friendly, lower running costs, high safety levels and a healthier home.