Making a sustainable radiant heat system starts with the installation of the in-floor pipes, the boiler, the individual radiators and energy efficient thermostats that control the temperature in each room. This setup alone possesses numerous sustainable features which help to reduce overall energy use and monthly energy costs. Adding to this a solar panel that in turn heats the water for use in the system makes the whole thing even more sustainable. Through solar power, you eliminate a large amount of electricity or natural gas required to heat the water in a boiler, heating it with the sun instead. Starting with the radiant hydronic system and finishing with the addition of a solar heating panel, the sustainability of such a setup becomes apparent.
Radiant Hydronic In-Floor Heat
The term hydronic is another way of saying liquid. Radiant hydronic heating systems work by heating water in a central boiler—much like a water heater. This hot water is pumped throughout the house by means of copper or plastic piping. The pipes are connected to numerous radiators which are activated by individual thermostats. As rooms can be heated in an isolated manner, the whole house need not be heated as in a traditional forced air system. This saves money and cuts down on energy waste because only the rooms that are in use require heat.
In-floor refers to the setup which places the pipes within a concrete slab underneath the floor of the house. This is much easier if it is built into the house, but retrofitting is possible. Because concrete is thermal mass, as the hot water flows through the pipes, it transfer much of the heat to the concrete through which it enters the individual rooms. The heat radiates from the pipes into the various rooms.
Sustainability of Heating System
Radiant hydronic heating systems are sustainable for various reasons. First, because contained water and thermal mass are much better conductors of heat, little of the heat energy is lost in the radiant heating cycle. Forced air central heating systems are notoriously inefficient in part because air is a poor conductor of heat. A lot of the energy dissipates in the air not to mention what is lost through the air ducts. The water that flows through the pipes maintains its heat energy and transfers it to the rooms.
Additionally, the water that is heated in the boiler and pumped through the system returns to the boiler to be reheated. The heat is transferred from the water into the room, but it is not all lost to evaporation. Lastly, the fact that only the inhabited rooms need be heated saves energy that would otherwise be wasted in unused rooms. Individual thermostats control the output from room to room, so much less energy is lost.
Addition of Solar Panels
As an alternative, a solar panel can be added to the system which enables the water in the pipes to be heated by the sun’s energy rather than by electricity or natural gas. A certain amount of electricity may be required to pump the water through, but the boiler is largely replaced with solar heat energy.
A radiant heating system is one of the most sustainable central heating methods available. Because it is very energy efficient and can be linked with a solar panel, it can be made to be almost entirely sustainable while at the same time providing a very thorough means of heating a home.