Radiant Heating Options: Boiler Or Water Heater?

Radiant heating options warm your living spaces from the floor up with the gentle heat of warm water recirculated through a network of tubing installed below the flooring.

Unlike hot forced air from a gas-fired furnace that tends to collect at the ceiling, radiant heat remains closer to the level of occupants in the room. It gently warms rooms by both radiation and conduction through all objects in contact with the floor — including bare feet on a cold winter morning.

Radiant heating options for water heating include boilers designed for applications like radiators and high-efficiency condensing water heaters. While boilers have conventionally been utilized for radiant floor heating, in homes where there is no other use for a boiler, such as generating steam for radiators, there are important reasons to consider using a high-efficiency water heater, instead.

High-efficiency water heaters, also known as condensing heaters, utilize a second heat exchanger to extract heat from the condensation process that accompanies combustion. In standard heaters, this heat is normally lost in the water vapor exhausted through the heater’s outdoor vent. A high-efficiency water heater reduces energy use by 10 to 50 percent over standard water heaters or boilers.

Here are some other reasons to consider a high-efficiency water heater instead of a boiler for your radiant heating system:

  • High-efficiency water heaters cost less to buy and operate than boilers.
  • Radiant systems require warm water. As its name implies, a “boiler” is designed to boil water for hot water uses like radiators. Boilers do not operate as efficiently at lower temperatures.
  • A high-efficiency water heater with sealed combustion chambers does not require a chimney for venting. All venting is facilitated through a single PVC pipe to the outdoors.
  • A single high-efficiency water heater can supply heated water for both household use and the radiant heating system.

Family-owned in Cincinnati since 1910, Apollo Home Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is your all-year source of home comfort technology. Let us explain all the radiant heating options available to heat your home this winter.

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- Randy B.
"We scheduled an estimate AND a tune-up. We knew something was wrong with our furnace, but hoped we could make it through the rest of the season. Upon telling Bill what our furnace was doing, he warned us immediately what the possible outcome was going to be; a cracked heat exchanger. He watched the flames roll backward, tested carbon monoxide levels, which were so high they meter’s last reading was 5,600 before saying “high”. He immediately shut it down, tagged it, and explained that with levels that high and children in our home he wanted off right away. He continued his inspection and showed us via a camera that not only was it cracked in multiple places, but had holes all over it. He gave us a few options for repairing it; his knowledge as well as genuine concern was beneficial and refreshing. Luckily we also scheduled an estimator, Micah, to come too and we were able to get costs between repairing and replacing (with several options). We decided to replace with a much higher efficiency furnace and one sized properly to our home. Hands down, not only did they both provide us great service and knowledge, but without sounding dramatic, they may have saved our lives. This was our first time calling Apollo, but it won’t be our last."
- Sarah B.
"Apollo is an excellent company. I always receive great service. Alex A. was professional and friendly. He kept me informed during the process of checking my furnace and heat pump to make sure they were working properly. The company makes sure you are notified who is coming and when they are on the way. All my interactions with the company have been wonderful."
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