Hot Water Heat: Worth the Switch?

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Understanding this efficient heating method and how it can work for you
Hydronic heating may sound
like a fancy new technology, but it’s actually one of the oldest home comfort
systems around. Known technically as hydronic heat and includes
class=GramE>both hot water or steam heat, it uses water to move warmth
throughout a home to efficient, comfortable and reasonable effect. Long popular
in

Understanding this efficient heating method and how it can work for you

Hydronic heating may sound

like a fancy new technology, but it’s actually one of the oldest home comfort

systems around. Known technically as hydronic heat and includes

class=GramE>both hot water or steam heat, it uses water to move warmth

throughout a home to efficient, comfortable and reasonable effect. Long popular

in Europe

style='font-family:Arial'>, hydronic heating is beginning to find a niche on

this side of the pond as interests in energy savings and greener options

increase.

Presently, forced air heating

continues to be the most likely choice in the

style='font-family:Arial'>U.S.

style='font-family:Arial'> and is present in 90 percent of American homes,

according to the Hydronic Heating Association. This is mainly because it’s an

economical choice for home builders, and allows for the simultaneous or later

integration of air conditioning. However, hydronic heating can still be

class=GramE>a part of your home comfort scheme─you just have to

know when and to what extent it’s a worthwhile addition. To help you compare

water and air in the heating realm, here’s a quick hydronics primer.

style='font-family:Arial'>What hydronic heating is and how it works

A hydronic system uses

water─the ultimate transfer medium─to move heat throughout a

structure. Heated in either a gas- or oil-powered

boiler, the water courses through a route of one-inch-diameter hydronic heat

pipe as either liquid or steam to radiators and convectors located in every

room of your home. From there, the resulting heat is distributed as it

circulates through the outlets for moist, from-the-ground-up warmth that lasts,

and then heads back to the boiler for reheating and another trip to living

spaces.

Hydronic heat can be zoned

for different areas or individual rooms within a home, and also helps to

improve ind

style='font-family:Arial'>oor air quality in the absence of the blower and allergen-trapping

ductwork that a forced air system requires. You also have the option of radiant

floor heating, in which durable PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) piping carries

warmth underfoot.

style='font-family:Arial'>When to go hydronic

Besides understanding how

hydronic heating works, it’s helpful to know when its installation will provide

the greatest return on your investment. A new build offers the best opportunity

for installation of a hydronic system, and it’s worth considering if you’re planning

from the ground up. Components can be more costly than those for forced air

heat and won’t del

style='font-family:Arial'>iver AC, but you’ll enjoy immediate energy savings

and a good 20 to 30 years of service if hydronic components are properly

installed and maintained.

And what about existing homes?

Making a complete switch from existing forced air to hydronic heating isn’t

really worth the investment.  You’d be

better off spending on improvements to existing ductwork and replacement of

major components. However, if you’d like to augment limited areas of your home

with hydronic heat, check out the easy-to-install

panel and blanket fabrications now available for creating radiant flooring retrofits.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weeklye-newsletter, visit the program’s website.


Tom's latest book,

href="http://www.myhomemymoneypit.com/">My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to

Every Home Improvement Adventure, is available in bookstores everywhere

and online.

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