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Hydronic Heating CAN be the most efficient heating system in existence

 
 

If it's operated correctly. And most times it's not.

What is hydronic heating?

Hydronic means water. Hydronic heating means that instead of heating the building with steam, You're moving hot water throughout the building. You can usually tell when a building is a hydronic building because instead of having a cast iron radiator, there's either baseboards along the entire footprint of the apartment or a PTAC unit that the tenant themselves can control.

Why is hydronic heating a better heating system for modern buildings?

Well, there are a couple reasons. The first is, with steam heat, the system is either on or off. You either hit 212 degrees with that water, and it becomes steam and rises and goes through the whole building, or you don't, and the building's not being heated.

"Adding smart controls to hydronic systems makes them incredibly efficient - utility companies will even pay you to add them."

With hydronic heating, you precisely control the temperature of that water and run that water through the building nonstop. Which means that apartments have a much more constant, comfortable feel. You don't need to go from 0 to 212, 0 to 212, 0 to 212 over and over again, which makes it more energy efficient as well.

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Is there a downside to hydronic heating systems?

With hydronic comes more complexity. You have to actually determine what the temperature of that water is nonstop, and you need to have pumps that will use electricity to pump that water throughout the building.

Historically, hydronic systems were run by what's known as timer based controls, which are incredibly inefficient.

What is a timer-based heating control?

Timer based controls monitor the outdoor temperature and use a fixed time table to turn the heat on and off. So if it's X degrees outside, run this temperature water inside. The problem is, because it has no idea what the temperature is inside or where the weather is going later, it always ends up running too long. And this has been acceptable in the past because we never want people to be cold.

Smart controls give hydronic heating systems improved efficiency.

So in recent years, people have been upgrading to what's known as smart controls. Smart controls use sensors in apartments and a weather forecast to precisely choose the temperature of water needed to make apartments perfectly warm and maximally energy efficient.

In most buildings, that means that you can cut your energy usage by between 10% and 30% simply by running that central heating system more efficiently with smarter technology.

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Hydronic heating was an innovation over steam heating, but smart controls with hydronic heating make the system even more energy efficient and comfortable. And that's really what technology is all about.

Utility companies strongly encourage adding smart controls.

Smart controls bring such an enormous improvement to energy efficiency that most utility companies will pay to have them installed in your building. You can check to see if your building is eligible here.