To understand why hydronic radiant heating is so effective it is important to understand how heat transfer takes place.
Heat transfer can occur in three different ways: conduction, convection and radiation. Hydronic heating works so effectively in keeping your home more comfortable versus conventional forced air systems because it utilizes conduction and radiation along with a liquid which is a superior conductor of heat.
Forced air heating systems rely solely on convection and air movement. Even the warmest air can feel cool when it is blown throughout a space. Air is such a poor conductor of heat that it is often used as a means of insulation, as can be seen by its use in between the panes of energy efficient windows.
This is the movement of heat through objects that physically touch, where heat moves from the warmer object to the colder. Standing barefoot on a beach with hot sand or a cold kitchen tile floor are good examples of this process. Density affects an objects ability to be conductive, which is why liquids are much better conductors than gases. This is the reason why we get colder much faster immersed in cool water, as opposed to standing in outside air temperatures that are the same.
This occurs when fluids or gases transfer heat while they are being circulated from one area to another. Traditional heating systems that use forced air are perfect examples of this type of heat movement. Just picture the warm air that flows out of the vents in a room to understand this process. Unfortunately, air and other gases, as mentioned above, are poor conductors of heat.
Thermal radiation is heat that travels in invisible waves through empty space. It is not something that can be blown away by the wind or moved. It is simply absorbed by the person or object that is in the path of the beam of energy, and is a far more effective means of transferring heat. The effects of thermal radiation can be felt when standing in direct sunlight.
The heating emitter in a hydronic system is a closed-loop system comprised of:
System circulation and actuation
The system circulates a mixture of hot water and propylene glycol (antifreeze), similar to the mixture used in a car radiator. The fluid is warmed to temperatures of 85F to 180 F to provide sufficient heat for the heating emitter required.
Pumps or a combination of pumps, zone valves or actuators are used to circulate to each zone via a control system (thermostat and zone controller).
|Radiant Heat Boiler||Forced Air Furnace|
|Warms the objects in a room||Heats the air in a room|
|Consistent, uniform heat||Hot & cold spots (stratification)|
|Conduction & radiant heat transfer||Convection heat transfer|
|Freedom to design room layout||Registers required at each window|
|High energy efficieny & lower utility costs||Medium energy efficiency & higher utility costs|
|Hypo-allergenic||Low dust control|
|Higher installation cost, lower life-cycle cost||Lower installation cost, higher life-cycle cost|