How Hydronic Systems Work

Here's a little information about how hydronic systems work. If you're unfamiliar with hydronic heating, this will provide some foundation for better understanding of what hydronics is all about.

Although not a new technology, hydronic heating has seen some improvements over the years, making it more effective and reliable.

Let's take a look at common ways of heating a house, and then let's see how the principles of hydronics accomplish the same objective.

Heating the House

A common type of home heating is a forced air furnace, whether it runs on gas, electricity or oil. Another common type of home heating system uses electric baseboard heaters.

In any household heating system, the idea is to convert one form of energy into another - heat, and then distribute the heat throughout the house. Furnaces heat air and then distribute the air using blowers and duct work. Electric baseboard heating systems do this by placement of baseboards throughout the house and electric supply lines routed to the baseboards to provide the heat.

Hydronic heating has the same objectives and works in similar ways, except we use water to deliver the heat where it's needed. Let's look at how hydronic systems work.

Principles of Hydronics

The basic principle of how hydronic systems work is to heat water and distribute it where heat is needed. The systems require a heat source, a means of moving the hot water, a system of distribution, and a way to release the heat where it's needed.

In order to release heat, the differential temperature, between the water and what needs to be heated, must be substantial. That's why hydronic heating systems often run at 160 F or even higher temperatures. The higher differential temperatures help surrounding materials absorb the heat more readily.

Even so, hydronic systems are slow to release heat since they rely on transferring heat from solid objects, like the floors, to the air in the room. Forced air furnaces create their own convection because the air is being forced into the room, whereas hydronic heating needs to slowly set up its own natural convection currents to warm the room air.

For more information about function and components of a system, see hydronic heating - the basics.

Why Water?

Water can hold a tremendous amount of energy. It's one of the reasons we use it to cool things and put out fires. In a hydronic system, this allows us to use less of it because of its ability to hold so much energy.

Water is also handy because it can be pumped from one place to another rather simply, and we can put it all in a closed loop system.

Done with How Hydronic Systems Work, back to Alt. Energy Sources

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