Electric or Hydronic Floor
Which Floor Heating Option Is Best For Your
There are all kinds of ways to heat your home. People have used wood, gas and electric to heat
homes for many years and though the fuel would differ the delivery was similar, a large furnace type device with a
fan pushing heated air around the home.
This is commonly referred to as a forced air heating system, however today homeowners have even
more choices with electric and hydronic floor heating options. This type of radiant floor heating is actually becoming quite popular however which one
should you choose?
Electric Under Floor Heating
Electric under floor heating generally consists
of electric cables, however there are also systems that utilize electrically conducive plastic matting. Both are
installed below the subfloor just under your floor covering. As these coils or mats conduct electricity, heat is
released warming your tiles or floor coverings.
Hydronic Floor Heating
Hydronic floor heating is accomplished by hot water
that is pumped through pipes. These are also installed in the floor; however, they must be set in a specific amount
of concrete, which will often result in significant floor buildup. This type of system will also require special
equipment such as a boiler and pump.
There are several things to consider when deciding between hydronic floor heating systems and
electric. You will need to consider cost, operations and efficiency as well as your current heating needs. For
example, if you live in a very cold climate you will have different heating requirements than if you live in a more
Initial Cost - When comparing these two floor heating types you will find the
initial installation costs for the hydronic unit will be significantly higher than an electric unit, this is due to
the necessity of purchasing a boiler system. For example if you were to install floor heating in an average size
bathroom the cost for an electric system would be a few hundred while hydronics would cost several thousand.
Installation - hydronic units are generally more time and labor intensive to
install, particularly if you are doing a remodel. A thick layer of concrete is required for laying the tubing and a
separate boiler room is often necessary. Of course, if this is a new construction, the cost could be somewhat
lower. Electric floor heating is much cheaper and easier to install whether it is a new construction or
Efficiency - This is where the differences in the two systems is really
pronounced. Electric floor heating is placed just under your floor covering and as such results in quick heating.
Hydronic units will take several hours to heat up in contrast. Of course, you have to balance this against the cost
of electricity in your location. Hydronic units are better suited than electric when you are trying to heat a large
area, especially in manufacturing where the floor space can be several thousand square feet.
Generally speaking electric floor heating is the best option for residential applications and
hydronic units work best for businesses and manufacturing. That being said there are always exceptions to every
rule, when you are building a new home in an area known for cold temperatures a hydronic unit over time could save
your more money. Regardless of the type of floor
heating systems you choose be sure and consult a professional who has experience in the field and discuss
with them your needs and budget.