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.