Electric Vs. Hydronic Underfloor Heating

1 June 2015
 Categories: Business, Articles

Underfloor heating systems are becoming increasingly popular in modern homes because they provide more comfortable and consistent warmth than forced-air heating. If you are considering underfloor heating installation for your home, you will need to make the choice between an electric or hydronic system. Here is a comparison of the two types of underfloor heating to help you make an informed decision.

Installation Cost

Up-front cost is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a heating system. The installation cost difference between electric and hydronic underfloor systems comes primarily from labor costs. Installing a hydronic system is a much more involved process. The system must be integrated with your existing water heater or boiler, and the underfloor tubes must be set in a layer of cement below the subfloor that will raise the height of your floor by a few inches.

In contrast to hydronic systems, electric underfloor heating is much less complicated to install. The floor will not be raised, as the underlying cables are less than an inch thick. To provide power to the system, technicians will simply connect the main power cable to a new fuse in your home's electrical panel. If you are only installing underfloor heating in a single room, there are several DIY-friendly options, such as mesh mats with pre-installed cables.

Energy Usage

There will be a significant difference in your monthly energy bill depending on whether you choose electric or hydronic underfloor heating. Electric underfloor heating functions on the same principle as electric space heaters, using a constant flow of electricity through high-resistance wires to generate heat.

Using an electric underfloor heater to heat your entire home will increase your energy bill compared to heating with a hydronic system. Because of this, electric underfloor heaters are primarily used to heat single rooms where cold floors are least desirable, such as bathrooms or kitchens with tile floors.

Hydronic underfloor heating is a more viable option for whole-home heating. The heater water inside of PEX tubes will heat your floor much more evenly than resistant cables, and they will also retain heat longer after the system is turned off. A hydronic system will be even more efficient if you use a gas or wood-burning boiler instead of an electric boiler.

No matter which type of underfloor heating you choose, both are almost always more efficient than forced-air systems. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this is because they do not lose heat through air ducts like traditional home heating systems.

Repair and Maintenance

Like any system with moving parts, hydronic underfloor heaters can suffer from wear that requires unexpected repairs. These systems use pumps to circulate warm water through the tubing in the floor, and will stop heating evenly if one of the pumps malfunctions. In rare cases, leaks may develop in the tubing that can lead to water damage in your floor if they are not located and repaired by a technician.

Unlike hydronic systems, electric underfloor heaters consist of no moving parts. As long as you are not running the system 24/7, the cables are very unlikely to burn out. In the event that cable replacement is required, the cables are much less difficult to remove because they are not set in cement.

Warm-Up Time

If you want a heating system that provides instant warmth as soon as you set the thermostat, electric underfloor heating is the right choice. The cables heat up much faster than the water in a hydronic system. Additionally, there is a much thinner layer between your feet and an electric system, as electric underfloor heaters are installed above the subfloor while hydronic heaters are installed below the subfloor.

Underfloor heating is an excellent option if you are currently remodeling your floors or building a new house. Use this comparison when you are choosing your underfloor heating system so you can find the best type for your home.