Adding Radiant Heating To Your Bathroom: Should You Install Hydronic Or Electric?

If you're tired of your toes freezing when you're in your bathroom, it might be time to install a radiant heating system. These systems heat up the floor, and the heat then spreads upwards to warm the entire room. Bathrooms are a perfect location for a radiant heating system since they're typically small—this means that adding radiant heat to your bathroom is often quite inexpensive.

When adding radiant heat, you'll have the option of choosing either a hydronic system or an electric system. To learn more about the difference between them and which one would best suit your home's bathroom, read on.

Hydronic Radiant Heating

In a hydronic radiant heating system, hot water runs throughout numerous small pipes in the floor. Heat from the hot water transfers to the floor, making it comfortably warm.

Many hydronic radiant heating systems are installed as part of new construction. The pipes are laid down before the floor slab is poured, which encases the pipes within the concrete. This is the ideal setup for hydronic radiant heating, as concrete retains its heat very well. Even when the radiant heating system is turned off, the warm concrete will continue to heat your bathroom.

However, the pipes don't need to be located within the concrete slab in order to heat the room. It's possible to add hydronic radiant heating to any room by installing the pipes over the concrete slab and placing flooring on top of them.

Hydronic radiant heating systems are more efficient than electric ones, but they can carry a large up-front cost. The cost to install radiant heating pipes in your bathroom isn't much higher than installing electric heating mats, but you'll also need to purchase a boiler or water heater in order to supply hot water to the pipes. Unfortunately, they can't be linked to your home's current hot water heater—the plumbing for a radiant heating system should be separate from the rest of your home's plumbing. As a result, hydronic systems can be more expensive to install due to the need to purchase an additional water heater or boiler.

Electric Radiant Heating

An electric radiant heating system uses coils underneath the floor to provide heat to your bathroom. As electrical current runs through the coils, they begin to heat up. It's similar to coils in an oven or an electric hot water heater function, although the coils don't become nearly as hot—they keep your bathroom floor warm without burning your feet.

Electric radiant heating systems have a massive advantage over hydronic systems when it comes to price and ease of installation. For installation, place electric mats over the concrete slab in your bathroom and connect them to a thermostat and your home's electricity. After putting a moisture barrier and a new floor over the mats, your electric radiant heating system is ready to use. 

A downside of electric radiant heating is that it can be less efficient than hydronic heating. Since you're putting your radiant heating system in a bathroom, however, the overall cost of keeping the space warm can be low. There's simply not that much space to keep warm. If you were installing radiant heating across your entire home, then hydronic heating would be a better choice due to the significantly lower operating cost.

Which is the right choice to keep your bathroom floors warm? In some cases, electric radiant heating is the way to go. The lower operating cost of a hydronic heating system often doesn't make up for its much higher installation cost. Both are low-maintenance and can keep your bathroom floor comfortable and warm. 

Regardless of which you choose for your bathroom, have it installed by a professional heating system installation service—fixing an improperly installed radiant heating system requires removing your flooring, so you want to make sure it's installed correctly by a professional. Contact a heating system installation service for more information.