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Traditional gas heating versus Hydronic – which is better for your home & health?

When deciding which energy source to run with for warming their homes, many Australian homeowners choose natural gas as their fuel source. Traditional gas heating is reasonably energy efficient and a sound choice, but there is another option which is rapidly gaining in popularity known as hydronic heating.

This article will cover:
Gas heating – why it’s so popular
Types of gas heating
Hydronic heating – what is it?
Benefits of hydronic heating

Gas heating – why it’s so popular

Gas currently delivers 44% of Australia’s household energy, but only produces 13% of household greenhouse gas emissions. So it’s certainly ticking the ‘better for the environment’ box.

Then there’s the fact that gas is up to 40% cheaper than electricity to use and is also more reliable with the infrastructure allowing distributors to deliver gas to customers on demand.

It’s clear to see why gas heating is the popular choice over electricity.

Types of gas heating

Space heaters

Way more energy efficient to run than electric space heaters with about 90% of the energy content of the gas being transformed into heat, gas space heaters warm the room fairly quickly.

You do need to ensure regular servicing by a licensed gas fitter to avoid safety issues, including leaks and need to remember to keep the room ventilated to avoid excess carbon monoxide build up, which is bad news for respiratory health (it can cause people to get dizzy, pass out, or can even be fatal in extreme levels).

Ducted gas heating

With ducted heating, air is heated in a gas furnace and blown through air ducts to vents throughout your home and a thermostat is connected to the system to control the temperature. The gas furnace is powered by either traditional natural gas (the more common choice) or LPG (liquified petroleum gas).

A downside to ducted heating is the fact the air is blown by fan force. If there are any pollutants or dust in the vents (which there inevitably will be over time) they are projected throughout the home by the fans. This isn’t good news for anyone’s respiratory health.

Log fire gas heaters

The allure of a crackling open fire roaring in a fireplace in your home can now be yours, running on gas. Like the space heater, you want to ensure that your gas fireplace is safety checked at least annually and ideally has a sensor device attached that reads oxygen depletion levels. Also not a bad idea to install a carbon monoxide detector on the same level of your home as the gas fireplace.

Many gas fireplaces have a glass panel at the front, which can pose as a significant burn hazard with the glass heating up to 500 degrees. With this in mind, you cannot leave pets or kids unattended by the fire and it is safest to use it for short periods of time. Additionally, a safety-barriers should also be put up in front of the unit.

There is another heating option worth considering – Hydronic Heating

What is hydronic heating?

While relatively new to the Australian market, hydronic heating has been used by our neighbours in the Northern Hemisphere for hundreds of years. Using a boiler and pipe system, water is warmed within the boiler and sent through the pipes, which run to the unit (underfloor heating, wall mounted radiators or heated towel rails). Once the unit warms up, it releases what is called ‘radiant heat’, where heat is absorbed by objects in the room (furniture, people) and allows the warmth to remain within the space for a lot longer than any heat created by fan forced air.

Benefits of hydronic heating

1. Flexible installation options

Hydronic heating can be installed in your home in a number of ways, with options to suit all home sizes.

  • Underfloor heating, can be installed within the concrete slab during construction of a new home or extension, but there are also a number of methods to install on top of existing floors. Homeowners can install floor heating in just one room, or across the entire property, including bathrooms and a range of floor coverings can be placed over the top, including tiles, laminate, carpet and engineered timber floorboards.
  • Wall panel heating radiators can be installed into any room in the home. They offer energy efficient heating with flexible design options to suit any space and you can always put in additional panels if needed later on. There are also a range of designer heating radiators which provide the same heating benefits with some beautiful features.
  • Radiant heated towel rails use the same system as the radiator. Apart from making your towels toasty, they also warm the bathroom air and keep floor mats dry and generally prevent germs and mould from growing.

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2. Energy efficient & cost effective

Ultimately water is a much better heat transfer medium than air. This makes hydronic heating more energy efficient than any system requiring forced air. As well as being better for the environment, energy efficiency also means lower running costs. It has been calculated that hydronic heating systems are 35% more cost effective compared to running a ducted system.

The energy usage of hydronic heating sources can be up to 70% less than other methods including electricity run heating systems. Hydronic heating systems also have the ability to zone heat via thermostat control, which can also add to the energy and cost efficiencies.

3. Health & Safety

With close to 3 million asthmatics in Australia and many others who suffer with seasonal allergies, having a heating system that supports respiratory health is paramount. As hydronic heating uses warmed water as the means to carry and distribute heat and not fan forced air, there are no pollutants such as dust mites, pollens and mould spores and other bacteria flying through the home as with fan forced air options including ducted heating, space heaters and reverse cycle air conditioning/heating units.

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Hydronic heating products are safe to the touch, which keeps little ones and pets safe and as there are no cables or power points involved, so there is no added safety risk.

Radiant heat is significantly more evenly distributed throughout the home and is a less ‘drying’ heat than that produced by central or ducted systems, making it much more comfortable for everyone. Its silent operation is another benefit.

4. Style & design

All hydronic heating products are designed with the consideration of not cluttering the home. Underfloor heating clearly takes up no space and hydronic radiant wall heating and radiant towel rails can be positioned to maximise wall availability for furniture and open space. No more floor standing units taking up real estate.

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Wall mounted radiators are available in literally hundreds of sizes and configurations to work in any sized room or home, with many being able to be colour customised to match your existing or planned décor. Heated towel rails are no different, with many being used as design features in bathrooms, as well as keeping towels cosy and warm.

Traditional Gas Heating vs. Hydronic Heating: the verdict?

Hydronic heating may well be the best bet for your health and home, especially if there are any allergy sufferers or asthmatics under the roof and if you’re interested in lower running costs and reducing your carbon footprint. Contact Hunt Heating to discuss product options for your home today.

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