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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.

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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.

With hydronic comes more complexity. You have to actually determine what the temperature of that water is non stop, 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.

Time erase controls are exactly what they sound like. They are literally an outdoor temperature and a table. So if it's X degrees outside, run this temperature water inside. The problem is, because we have no idea what the temperature is inside or where the weather is going later, you end up always having to overshoot because you never want people to be cold.

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 percent 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.