Hydronic radiant heating tubing installed on an exposed floor

When the colder months come around, heating your home is essential. There are a few choices to consider, with radiant heating and a traditional HVAC system being the two most popular options.

However, many homeowners wonder if hydronic radiant heating is cheaper to run than regular HVAC.

If you are one of them, you’re in the right place.

Read on to learn if radiant heating is cheaper to run, things you can do to improve the overall efficiency of your heating system, and if the money you may save running radiant heat instead of regular HVAC is worth the initial investment.

Is Hydronic Radiant Heating Cheaper Than Traditional HVAC?

Hydronic radiant heating is cheaper to run than standard HVAC systems. In addition, radiant heating is much more efficient than traditional HVAC, providing you with a more economical choice, especially when considering it over a more extended period.

Hydronic Radiant Heating Can Save You Money 

Hydronic radiant heating can be one of the most cost-efficient ways to heat your house daily. Many experts agree that using hydronic radiant heating will save around 25% on your monthly heating bill. This is a crucial factor to consider when shopping for a new temperature control system or when you’re looking to improve the efficiency of your existing equipment. 

You can add hydronic radiant heating to your bathroom or bedroom or use it as your house’s primary heating system.

In the past, radiant heating was thought of as something people only employed in certain rooms of their house. Still, as more information comes to light, we’re learning it is a viable option as your primary heating source for your entire home.  

Reducing Utility Bills Using Hydronic Radiant Heating 

You can reduce your electricity bill using radiant heat because you’re not required to use as much energy to heat your home. There are a few reasons why this is true.

Some reasons why you don’t use as much energy to heat your home using hydronic radiant heating include:

  • You aren’t losing heat unnecessarily – because traditional HVAC systems rely on blowing hot air from a central heating unit to various rooms through ducts, you have to produce a lot of energy to heat the entire house. A lot of the hot air used to heat your home gets lost in spaces you aren’t inhabiting, which is not the case with hydronic radiant heating.
  • The heat stays closer to your body – hydronic radiant heating starts from the ground up. Since we stand on the floor, we feel the heat more than if it comes from the ceiling or walls in our house. As a result, many people who use hydronic radiant heat often set their thermostats lower than they would with standard HVAC.
Looking down at a crosssection of and exposed radiant floor at left and a section of the wood flooring covering it to the right
  • The temperature is more consistent – because it is a more efficient way of heating your house, the temperature is more consistent when you use this heating method. That means less turning on and off of your heater like you may need to with a regular HVAC unit, and in turn, saving more energy. 

These three factors help explain how you can reduce your heating costs when you use hydronic radiant heating.

So it’s no wonder it is becoming a more popular choice when it comes to heating your home or business. Rising energy costs make it necessary to save where we can, and a straightforward way you can do that is to install hydronic radiant heating in your home.

Optimizing Your Hydronic Radiant System for More Savings

Hydronic radiant heating can save you a lot of money month-to-month compared to standard HVAC systems. You will enjoy the more consistent temperatures and lower costs on your electricity bill.

But are there ways to optimize your radiant heating to save even more?

There are a few things that you can do to take advantage of your hydronic heating system to ensure that you’re getting the absolute best value. Considering the best ways to optimize it is essential when trying to save money while heating your home.

Some approaches to save even more money when using hydronic radiant heating include:

  • Only installing it in areas you use frequently – this method can help save you a lot of money over time. For example, think about the hallways or storage rooms in your house that you don’t frequently use.
    Rather than unnecessarily heating these rooms, refrain from installing the coils beneath the floors there. This slight change will allow you to avoid heating a space that doesn’t need to be as warm as others.
  • Installing it in only certain parts of rooms – another trick you can use is only installing the system in some parts of a room. For example, if you have a large kitchen cabinet set or stove, avoid placing it under these types of equipment when heating your kitchen. You don’t need to heat your plates or cabinets, just your friends and family!
  • Use hydronic radiant heating with the right flooring – if you choose heavy-duty carpets or rugs, it will take longer for the heat to reach higher areas. However, you can still get effective heating using radiant systems with carpets. Still, it’s essential to understand that it will work best if you use thinner rugs instead of heavier alternatives.
Looking down at a crosssection of and exposed radiant floor at right and a section of linoleum flooring covering it to the left
  • Keep your windows closed when possible – just like traditional HVAC heaters, you’ll want to pay attention to the conditions inside your home. If you don’t need a window open, close it. Keeping the existing heat inside your house will reduce heat loss.

Optimizing the installation process and the conditions in your house will increase the overall effectiveness of your hydronic heating system. If you follow these basic steps, you’ll get even better performance from your heating system and save more money. This profit will, in turn, help recover some of the initial investment you made in the system. 

Why Does HVAC Cost More Than Hydronic Radiant Heat?

Standard HVAC is the most common temperature control system, but it’s also relatively costly over time. However, since HVAC is cheaper to install and maintain than a radiant heating system, why does HVAC heating cost more?

HVAC heating costs more than hydronic radiant heating over time because it is less efficient. Therefore, if you plan to live in a home for an extended period, you would spend more on HVAC than hydronic radiant heating.

While HVAC costs much more to run than hydronic radiant heating over a long period, it is cheaper in some ways when you compare the two. However, several factors can influence whether or not hydronic radiant heating is the ideal choice for you.

A few reasons why HVAC can cost more over time than hydronic radiant heating include:

  • HVAC will cost more if you live in your house for a long time because it costs more to heat your entire home than it does with radiant heating. Therefore, if you plan on living in your apartment or house for many years, it will cost more to have an HVAC system.
  • HVAC systems require relatively frequent maintenance – many experts recommend that you regularly clean your furnace and ducts. If you aren’t doing so, your HVAC system will work harder and cost more to run. Unfortunately, this mistake many people make can contribute to why you’re paying much more for heating with an HVAC than a hydronic system. 
A profession using a brush for air duct cleaning
  • You are heating a larger building – using a standard HVAC system in a large house or apartment building can explain why you’re spending more money using an HVAC system. You’ll consume more energy and pay more if you live in larger buildings with numerous rooms.    

When Does Hydronic Radiant Heat Cost More Than Standard HVAC?

HVAC can cost significantly more to run than hydronic radiant heating, but it isn’t always more expensive. It would help if you considered the building in which the system is being used and for how long.

So when does hydronic radiant heating cost more than HVAC? 

Hydronic radiant heating can cost more when you first install it than HVAC. You need to install a separate system for your AC, as well. It can also cost a lot more to repair.

When considering installing HVAC into your home or business, it is essential to understand these expenses.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at why HVAC doesn’t necessarily cost more in some scenarios.  

It Can Cost More To Install Hydronic Radiant Heating

HVAC can be more expensive to run than hydronic radiant heating over time. However, installing an HVAC unit can save much money over a long period.

Although you’ll save a lot after you have your hydronic radiant heating system set up, you could spend far more on the installation, depending on where you live and the unit’s size.

According to Home Advisor, HVAC typically costs about $5,000 to $10,000 to replace and as much as $12,000 for a brand new unit. Compare this to hydronic radiant heating, which can cost as much as $40,000 to install into a building. 

A technician kneeling on the floor cuts a piece of cable from a spool during a radiant floor heating system installation

When you install hydronic heating, you’ll want to stay in that building for a very long time. If you move frequently, this may not be the best investment unless you’re trying to add value to a home you plan to sell.

It can cost you nearly four times as much to install hydronic radiant heating, so the money you save monthly could take years to recoup.

Hydronic Radiant Heating Costs More To Service

Not only is hydronic heating more expensive to install, but it costs more to maintain as well. A hydronic system repair can cost an average of $400, according to Homesace.com.

These visits can be over $1000 for severe issues with the system, which can add up quickly over time if numerous appointments are made.

The average price of a repair for an HVAC system is considerably less. According to HomeGuide, it costs an average of $268 for a repair order on the furnace of an HVAC system.

So if you live in a home you plan to stay in for less time, you might want to consider standard HVAC. However, if you’re planning to stay there for many years or get an increased sale value out of it, hydronic radiant heating may be a good choice.    

Hydronic Radiant Heating Requires a Separate AC Unit

Hydronic radiant heating systems are much cheaper to run over time. Still, one thing to consider is that you will need to purchase a separate AC unit if you’re installing a hydronic system. 

Because radiant heating is a series of coils under your floor board that pumps water from a tank to heat your house, it will not work with an AC unit like a typical HVAC

If you’re on a strict budget and cannot afford to buy a separate unit, this is an important distinction you will want to factor in. On the other hand, if you have less money to spend in the short term, your best choice may be to buy a complete HVAC system rather than hydronic radiant heating so that you get everything purchased at once in a single package.

Conclusion

Installing hydronic radiant heating is a fantastic way to reduce your energy bill in the long run. However, there are some tips you can try to save on installation costs and cut back on your monthly bills. Some ways in which you can make your hydronic radiant heating more cost-effective include:

  • Only install it in the rooms where you frequently need heat
  • Strategically place it in specific areas of a room
  • Use the suitable flooring materials

If you keep these tips in mind, hydronic radiant heating is cheaper overall than regular HVAC.   

Sources

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