Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating vs Electric Heating

Nowadays, hydronic radiant floor heating and electric heating are the favored methods by which homes are heated up. This is because radiant floors have been found to be more effective and cost-efficient than the forced air heating system. Hydronic radiant floor heating makes use of hot water heated by a boiler and circulated in underfloor tubings by a pump. The water conducts heat to the surface of the floor and from there radiant energy is emitted to the room. The same type of radiant heating occurs in electric heating systems but, in this case, the heat comes from electric wiring that is installed underneath the floors. Here are some other key differences between the two systems:


Electric heating systems are easier to install than hydronic systems. When installing hydronic floors, the heating system has to be installed and firmly set in cement before the floor can be laid down. This system also raises the floor by a few inches, which may become a problem in future remodeling jobs. In contrast, the electric heating system makes use of thin wires that will only raise the floor by less than a quarter of an inch. The cost of installation is another point of contention. A hydronic radiant floor heating system, though easier to install, costs significantly more. However, in very large constructions, the hydronic system will cost less to install.

Energy Consumption

Electric radiant heating makes use of panels or mats that are placed with the electric wiring just under the flooring material. These are connected to an electrical circuit controlled by a timer and thermostat, which the homeowner can turn on or off depending on his needs. The system can be preset to provide heat only when and where it is needed and only takes thirty minutes to an hour to heat up. On the other hand, a hydronic radiant heating system is buried so deep into the floor that it takes between 4 to 7 hours for it to heat up. This means that hydronic heating systems are kept on for longer periods of time and therefore consume much more energy.


Hydronic radiant heating systems are more difficult to repair. They continuously circulate water and consist of various parts that are prone to mechanical issues, sedimentation, and upkeep difficulties. In contrast, an electric radiant heating system has no moving parts and needs little or no maintenance. Also, leaks in a hydronic system could mean disaster, as they will be difficult to locate and repair. Electric heating systems make use of an underground fault detector, which can pinpoint the exact location of a leak.

Operating Costs

Because of the cost of electricity, a hydronic system may sometimes cost less to operate than an electric system. A major advantage of hydronic radiant heating systems is the number of fuel sources available. The water in this system can be heated up using wood, oil, gas, or even solar energy. With electric heating systems, you won’t have to purchase a boiler, but you also won’t be able to change fuel sources.