Central heating vs Hydronic Heating

Central heating vs Hydronic Heating

4 mins read

If you’re building your dream home or looking to do some renovations, your heating system is a great place to start. Nobody likes to be cold in the winter months and with the increasing reports of the impact human have on the environment, the eco-friendly rating of your heating system comes into play.

With systems as essential as household heating, people don’t just go for the cheapest option they can find. At the end of the day, what you pay for is what you get. Staying warm when it’s cold is essential for humans, but Sydney homeowners prefer different methods of heating their homes. Some prefer central heating, while others, hydronic heating.

Keep reading below to learn more about the differences and which heating system is best for you and the environment.

Central Heating System

How does it work?

Central heating systems have a primary heating appliance, such as a furnace, normally located in a basement or garage. Combustion gases are generated by the burners in the furnace and passed through a heat exchanger. Air from your home blows across the heat exchanger to be warmed. It is then blown through a system of ducts to distribute around your home.

Impact on the environment

According to BBC’s news article titled “Central heating boilers put climate change goals at risk” they say “In major cities, gas boilers are also a main source of nitrogen dioxide emissions.” During winter, the total amount of emissions is much higher than that in summer coal-fired boilers emit the largest amounts of pollutants compared to other heating systems. Renewable energy-based systems offer the lowest environmental impacts.

The Australian government advises to “Set your thermostat correctly. Each degree of extra heating in winter or cooling in summer increases energy consumption by about 5 to 10%. Set the thermostat to 18 to 20°C in winter and 25 to 27°C in summer.”

Hydronic Heating System

How does it work?

Hydronic heating works by circulating heated water throughout the home. The heat in the pipes then radiates into the room through wall-mounted radiators, convectors or underfloor heating systems. Unlike other heating systems that use fans or vents to blow warm air around the room, hydronic heating warms objects through radiation, which results in an even distribution of heat.

A hydronic heating system consists of five components:

1. The boiler, which heats water to a thermostatically controlled temperature. Boilers can use a range of fuels, including natural gas, LPG, off-peak electricity, diesel or wood pellets.

2. The piping, which is usually made of copper, plastic or a multilayered composite. The piping carries the heated water from the boiler to the radiators, convectors or underfloor heating coils, and back again for reheating.

3. A pump, which circulates the water through the piping.

4. Radiators, convectors or the underfloor heating system, which transfer the heat into the room. Several types of radiators and convectors are available. The types you install will depend on the layout of your home and your budget.

5. A programmable wall thermostat, which controls the heat levels or room temperature to optimise comfort throughout the house. Thermostats can also provide zone control, meaning you can heat just the rooms you’re using and can set different temperatures across different zones.

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Hydronic heating delivers extremely comfortable heating at much lower temperatures because, without any forced air movement, the heat emitters aren’t exposed to the cooling effects of airflow, as present in ducted and split system air conditioners.

Impact on the environment

Hydronic systems circulate hot or cold water or other fluid through radiator panels in rooms or under the floor (refer to In-slab heating below). The fluid may be heated or cooled by electric or solar pumps, or by gas if used for heating only. Solar systems can use gas, wood or electric heating as a backup.

Hydronic systems are typically more expensive to buy and install compared with space heaters. Ensure water circulation pipes are well insulated and use smart controls to manage pump usage. Higher running costs are usually caused by unnecessary water circulation or poor pipe insulation.

Exterior walls behind panels must also be insulated to prevent heat or cool loss to the outside. Use wall cavity insulation or a layer of installed reflective foil on the internal wall behind the radiator panel.

As consumers become more eco-conscious there is a growing demand for product options with a lower environmental impact. One of the main home comforts that significantly contributes to our carbon footprint is home heating. However, if you’re looking for a solution that’s kinder to the environment, hydronic heating is the perfect option.

Hydronic systems emit heat through thermal radiation underfoot or close to floor level, providing warmth while maintaining lower ambient room temperatures. The system cleverly manages by transferring heat without the need for forced air circulation, thereby increasing energy efficiency and reducing heat loss. Win-win.

Heat conduction through water

Water is an excellent conductor of heat; this is maximised by insulated circulating pipes to ensure there is minimum heat loss. When the water cools, it is effectively recycled back into the boiler to be reheated.

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Zoning capabilities

With zoning capabilities, you can turn off less used radiators and set individual temperatures for each room to save energy and costs. When the room reaches the set temperature, the heating turns off and only restarts when the temperature drops, ensuring you maintain comfortable heat at all times.

The Verdict: Which heating system is best for me?

Hydronic heating is the more energy-efficient and eco-friendly option. With less pollution and zoning capabilities, you won’t be heating unnecessary spaces in your home as you do with central heating, you would only turn on the heat in rooms you are currently using.

Although hydronic heating is normally considered slightly more expensive to install, the cost of contributing to the degrading state of our climate far outweighs the installation cost for your new heating system.

Contact Norwest Gas today on 1300 499 169 to find out how we can help you lower your carbon footprint and live in luxurious heat during the cold months.

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