Radiant Hot Water Heated Floor Options: Boiler Or Water Heater?

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We’ve all had those cold, wintry days where the cold seems to be seeping through every single nook and cranny. Those with multiple stories or high ceilings know that heat rises. This is convenient if you don’t need to be downstairs, but the floors are icy if you do. Tile flooring particularly gets cold in the winter, to the point where you can’t keep your feet warm unless you have shoes or slippers on.

On a cold winter’s day, there’s nothing quite like radiant heat floors. With radiant heating, you no longer have to worry about finding your slippers whenever you want to leave the carpeted areas or bundle up when you go downstairs. The heat is down where the people are–at ground level–instead of floating up in the ceiling.

How Does Hot Water Radiant Heat Work?

heating radiant heat water floor

A hydronic radiant floor heating (RFH) system has hot water pipes that go through the floors and walls. Hydronic means that there is liquid circulated through the pipes. The heat radiates through the pipes and warms the house from the ground up.

Hot water is circulated through these pipes, and that warmth radiates from the pipes to the floor. The floor then warms up everything it touches throughout the room and influences the temperature of the air.

The system of separate pipes connects to a single point called the manifold. The manifold divides these separate pipes into zones throughout your house. These zones allow your thermostat to control which sections of your house are heated, allowing you to save money by heating only the parts you plan to use that day.

Temperatures in the room are more constant than with a standard central heating system because the warmth isn’t rising straight to the ceiling with hot air.

Radiant floor heating can be more energy efficient than standard furnaces, with potential savings of 25 to 50 percent. Homeowners with allergies may prefer radiant heating as it doesn’t distribute allergens like central heating systems.

A hydronic floor heating system requires a lot of work to be done to your floor to install. It is an ideal system if you are doing a whole home remodel or a new construction home.

Boiler Radiant Floor Heating System

Boilers were one of the most common heating systems in the 18th century. Using a variety of fuel sources, boilers boil water, and that water (or steam) would be pumped into radiators to warm the house. Boilers are still a common radiant heating system for old houses today.

High-capacity boilers can provide heat for radiators, hydronic floor heating, and hot water for domestic home needs like dishwashers, showers, and washing machines.

Water Heater Radiant Floor Heating System

radiant heating options

Traditionally, water heaters have only been used to heat water, not to warm the house. They have a similar function and role to boilers, but their heating method changes their operation. Water heaters do not quite have the variety of fuel sources that boilers have, but they can use the two most widely used, electric and natural gas.

High-efficiency water heaters, also known as condensing heaters, utilize a second heat exchanger to extract heat from the condensation process that accompanies combustion. Standard heaters normally lose this heat 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.

Water heaters have several advantages over boilers when it comes to hydronic floor heating systems.

Benefits of a Hot Water Radiant Heat in a Floor Heating System

While boilers have conventionally been designed for applications like radiators, they have several disadvantages compared to a hot water heater when it comes to radiant floor heating systems.

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.
  • Captured condensate can improve efficiency by an additional 10 percent.
  • A single high-efficiency water heater can supply heated water for both household use and the radiant heating system.

Interested in Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating?

Family-owned in Cincinnati since 1910, Apollo Home Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is your year-round source of home comfort technology. Let us explain all the radiant heating options available to heat your home this winter. We can install, repair, and maintain hydronic radiant floor heating systems in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

"Ernie & Mike did a superb job on my new furnace and A/C installation. Despite having more than a day’s work to do, they came in and stayed until the job was done. They were organized, efficient, and protected the rest of the house well. Got both furnace and A/C installed the same day. Ernie was courteous, informative, and clearly knew his job better than anyone I’ve encountered before. The units look so good guests now get The Tour of our new system. Apollo is clearly not a fly-by-night company. I would recommend them to anyone in need of a new furnace and/or A/C."
- Jerry A.
"I called Apollo because of a water leak I thought I had in our upstairs shower going into the kitchen. Robbie came and assured me everything was fine & looked at all the other plumbing. He ended up changing a few pipes for our washer & clearing a drain. He was very nice & knowledgeable with all my questions. I ended up signing up for the care plan & was very happy with my service."
- Cassandra B.
"The team at Apollo exceeded my expectations. As a business owner, my attention to the details and commitment to providing excellent service is high. From the sales rep. to the installation team, everyone’s performance was outstanding. For example, the installation team went to great lengths to protect our floors, placing floor runners and across the wood floors and up the stairs. They even were spot washing walls upon their departure. I highly recommend this company."
- 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."
- Beverly S.



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