With the changing of the seasons comes the realization that the cold weather will soon be upon us. And if you hate to be cold like I hate to be cold, a heating system that warms fast is a must. Hydronic heating is one option, and in this post we will explain you how long does it take hydronic heating to warm up.
Hydronic systems can affect the temperature of a room in about 10-15 minutes, while the liquid heating times will be between a few seconds and 80 minutes, depending on the type of boiler used. This variance in the time it takes for heat to generate and spread throughout the room is important to consider when choosing a heating system.
But let’s get back to basics for a minute and discuss hydronic heating as a concept, including:
- How hydronic heating works
- Types of hydronic heating elements
- The benefits of hydronic heating
Once we reach a better understanding of hydronic heating as a whole, we’ll be able to better understand its advantages in use and the resulting rise in popularity.
How Does Hydronic Heating Work?
It sounds fancy, but a hydronic heating system can simply be defined as one that uses heated liquid to achieve the desired temperature as opposed to heated air. In the process, water (or in some cases, an antifreeze mix, depending on the system) is heated in a boiler and run through a series of pipes along the flooring. Heat is conducted through the liquid and subsequently radiated into the room through vents along the baseboards or a radiator on the wall.
Hydronic heating is a subset of a larger heating and cooling concept known as radiant heating – named such for the radiating of the heat through the space – and allows for an even spread of heat within the space.
Types of Hydronic Heating Elements
There are four different types of heating elements for hydronic systems, each with their own different properties:
- Gas boilers
- Electric boilers
- Wood-fired boilers
- Solar-powered boilers
Let’s look at each a bit more in-depth.
A typical gas boiler may take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to heat the water inside the tank.
A tank-less gas heater warms the water nearly instantaneously, with the timing being more dependent on the distance the hot water has to travel in order to reach its destination.
A typical electric boiler may take anywhere from 60-80 minutes to heat the water inside the tank, largely owing to being “less powerful” than gas heating elements.
Tank-less electric boilers offer the same, quick start-up that tank-less gas boilers do, but it may take moments as opposed to seconds. Still, not too shabby.
Wood-fired boilers are typically located outdoors, using fire to heat the water that is then piped to wherever it is needed. The heating time for a wood-fired boiler can vary based on the type of wood that is used, as well as factors like distance from the destination, the outside temperature, the material pipes are made of, and the size of the pipes. Alternative materials, such as corn, may be burned in order to keep the unit inside the house.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has specific guidelines around the installation and operating of outdoor wood-fired boilers.
Solar Powered Boilers
Much like it can with electricity, the use of solar energy has the ability to lower overall utility bills, even after a more expensive installation upfront. The heating time for solar-powered boilers is similar to that of standard electric boilers, with the important – and probably obvious – caveat that a cloudy day may hinder the supply of hot water or the time it takes to heat what water exists.
Because the heating of the water is dependent on the weather, solar-powered water heaters are more commonly found in scenarios where it doesn’t matter as much, like heating a swimming pool or being piped into a garden greenhouse.
Benefits of Hydronic Heating
Now that we’ve looked at the different ways in which hydronic heat comes to be, we can discuss the benefits of hydronic heat when pitted against a forced-air heating system.
The use of a hydronic heating system is overall healthier than a forced-air system. Because hydronic heating systems use a hot liquid in the ducts instead of hot air, hydronic systems are far less likely to agitate dust inside the ductwork as opposed to a forced-air system. And for someone with allergies or asthma, this can make a world of difference to their quality of life, especially in the dead of winter when the heat is running constantly.
The biggest advantage of hydronic heating is its energy efficiency. When compared to a forced-air heating system, a properly-installed gas boiler hydronic system can cost about 20% less to operate. Of course, this number can vary based on tank size, frequency of use, and size of the space being heated; but savings are savings.
This point may be of little consequence in the long run, but because hydronic heating systems operate underneath the flooring, this type of heating system can make floors warmer to walk on. Have you ever walked barefoot on wood or tile floor in the coldest months of the year? Hydronic heating can help take the chill out.
This may pose an additional benefit to household pets who may already like to hang out in front of heat vents. If the floors themselves are warmer to the touch, perhaps your pet will back away from the vent.
And, as discussed already, radiant heat is more evenly spread throughout a room, which decreases the likelihood that someone will be colder than another person for lack of heat.
Like all utility elements, heating systems must be maintained well in order to function well. If well maintained, an in-house hydronic heater can last 10-20 years before needing to be serviced, and perhaps even longer.
Solar-powered water heaters can last even longer than that, running for 20-30 years. Once again, proper maintenance is a must.
If you would like to read a bit more about this, you can check our post “How long does Hydronic heating last?“.
In the battle of the heating systems, there is a lot to be said about hydronic heating.
It has high efficiency. While the heat generating option you choose may impact the time it takes for the water to heat up, none of those times are terribly long, and certainly no longer than a forced air furnace that can feel like it takes an eternity to kick on. The notion of evenly-spread heat is also quite nice for someone who is always cold.
It has a great environmental impact, both on a macro-level with solar power cutting down the use of fossil fuels and overall energy consumption, but on a micro-level with hydronic heating cutting down the presence of dust and allergens in the air. No one wants to spend all winter with a chronic case of the sniffles.
The time it takes for a hydronic heater to warm up may vary, but the quality of the system itself does not. It is consistent, and it is worthwhile.