Can a radiant floor heat a whole home?

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Can hydronic radiant heating be a complete heating solution for a home?

Jeremy Peters Published: Dec. 16, 2019, 1:13 a.m.Last updated: Aug. 28, 2020, 10:55 a.m.

I am proposing to install hydronic radiant heating on my subfloor to take it up a notch as I was also planning to install a ductless heat pump system. On further research, I am discovering that a correctly designed radiant system can make the heat pump system superfluous. 

I would like to hear some thoughts. 

Responses (3)

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Jeremy Peters Dec. 18, 2019, 1:15 a.m. Reply

Hi Mike,

Thank you so much for your input! I also am digesting your excellent article on Designing homes for comfort. I am also examining the feasibility of air to water heat pumps so that I may enjoy radiant heating and cooling.  And to answer your questions, the answer is yes to both. It is a new construction on a foundation with insulation between the floor joists.  I plan to install the piping above the subfloor and not below.  Also, a HRV will be installed as well. 

I live in Bellingham, 98229 WA  and being in a "frost pocket" we are more a 5B or 5A. 

Thanks once again!

Mike Reynolds
Mike Reynolds Dec. 18, 2019, 9:17 a.m. Reply

You're welcome Jeremy! We did a combination of radiant floors, air source heat pump and heat pump water heater in our Edelweiss House (not to mention passive heating), and while some may think it to be overkill, we like the idea of a backup heat source.

We use the radiant floor mostly for comfort, to keep it warm enough to walk comfortably on it but we rely on the heat pump as the primary heat source because it is about 3 times more efficient.  We can do that because it's a small, open concept house with good circulation and an airtight envelope. The heat pump is a small ductless unit in the living room but pretty much serves the whole house.

 So is it redundant? Well....kinda, but kinda not too :)  When a house doesn't lose much heat you don't need to add much heat. I wouldn't build a 'Code' quality house where I'd need to drop 15K to meet the demand with a heat pump system along side a radiant floor, but the heat load is so small in that house that what we put in was about 3K installed (Canadian dollars), and it works great.