Do You Know Your Options For Retrofitting Hydronic Heating?

Hydronic heating can provide the kind of cozy warmth that's impossible with typical forced-air heating systems. While many people associate hydronic heating systems with radiators, heated floors are becoming more and more common in many luxury homes. Unfortunately, many homeowners believe that hydronic floor heating (often referred to as radiant heat) can only be installed in new homes. In fact, it is often possible to retrofit radiant floor heating into existing rooms. When installed this way, radiant heat can complement your existing heating system, helping to keep your floors warmer and your room feeling much cozier.

Understanding Hydronic Heating Systems

All forms of hydronic heating work using radiative heating, which is why these systems are often referred to as radiant heat systems. Unlike forced-air systems, radiant heat systems radiate heat in all directions, warming objects directly rather than warming the air. In practice, this means that radiant systems usually provide more even heating without producing dry air or drafts. If you've ever sat in front of a fireplace or a campfire, then you know how comfortable radiant heat can be.

For hydronic floor heating, radiant heat is delivered through pipes or tubes that run below the floor. Metal plates are usually installed between the flooring and the hot water tubing to help transfer and distribute heat across the surface. For new homes, radiant heating equipment is installed before the final flooring. When retrofitting existing rooms, several alternative installation methods exist.

Retrofit Options

When adding hydronic heating to a room, there are generally two options depending on the level of access that is available. The first and easiest option is to install the hot water tubing below the floor. This style of retrofit is often possible for first-floor rooms where basement access makes it easy to reach the floor joists. In situations such as this, hydronic floor heat can be added to a room without disrupting the existing flooring at all. Depending on the location of your water heater or boiler, first-floor retrofits of this type can potentially be very straightforward projects.

For rooms where there is no access from below, however, installing floor heating can be somewhat more complicated. The method used to add floor heating in these cases will vary depending on how much disruption you are willing to accept. In most cases, the supply lines are run on top of the existing subfloor, and new flooring is installed above that. This style of installation can increase the overall height of the floor, but it allows for the installation of heating elements without the removal of the existing subfloor.

Whatever your particular installation needs are, you are sure to find a retrofit option that will work for you. Once you've consulted with an HVAC installer and decided on an installation method, you will be enjoying your new radiant floors in no time at all.

Contact a heating service in your area to learn more.