This is a popular question among home and business owners, and the answer is a little complicated. There are several ways to discuss the efficiency of radiant floor heating systems. Efficiency can be discussed in terms of cost, power usage, or heat output.
While it is true that hydronic systems use less energy per hour of operation, they can also take up to 7 times as long to reach the desired heat output. This means that a hydronic system will need to be run for a longer period of time than an electric system to heat the same area, which may lower or even eliminate the user’s expected energy savings if the floor does not need to be constantly heated.
Also, while a hydronic system could potentially be cheaper to run, they are difficult and expensive to remodel and repair since the pipes must be embedded in a concrete slab. Electric systems on the other hand are installed over a concrete slab or plywood subfloor, making them much better for a remodeling or DIY project.
For the average homeowner and business owner, electric really is the way to go. But the truth is there are pros and cons to consider with both systems:
• Easier and more affordable installation (possible DIY project) • No excess machinery (boiler, valves, etc) • Heats faster • Easier to regulate • Can be run on a timer • Available in outdoor applications for snow and ice melting • Runs silently • Available in retrofit applications • No heating elements exposed
• Slightly higher electricity costs • Some EMF generated by cables • Must usually be replaced when flooring is replaced
Pros: • Uses less energy to maintain heated temperature for very long periods of time • Lower electricity costs • No EMF from water tubing
Cons: • Requires professional maintenance annually • Requires excess machinery to pump and heat water (boiler, valves, etc) • Shorter lifespan • More expensive installation • More costly to repair and replace • Harder to regulate heat output • Adds more height to the floor • Possible water damage in the event of damage or wear