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The Cost of Running a Hydronic Heating System

Last Updated Sep 14, 2018 · Written by Rob Schneider


A hydronic heating system can be a home improvement worth investing in. Hydronic heating systems have advantages over other types of heating systems and can be less expensive to run.

  1. What is a hydronic heating system?
  2. Advantages of hydronic heating systems
  3. Disadvantages of hydronic heating systems
  4. The cost of running a hydronic heating system
  5. How much does a hydronic heating system cost to install?
  6. Why consider installing a hydronic heating system?

What is a hydronic heating system?

A hydronic heating system uses water to heat a room or rooms. The water is heated in a boiler and transferred via pipes to either a wall system or an underfloor system. In most cases, natural gas or LPG heats the water and in some cases, solid fuel is used to heat the water. When it is the right temperature, it is circulated through the pipes and returns to the boiler to be heated again. Since it is still warm when it recirculates, the boiler doesn't use as much energy to reheat the water.

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A hydronic heating system is efficient to use and has some advantages over other types of heating systems.

Advantages of hydronic heating systems

Some of the advantages of a hydronic heating system are:

  • They are anti-allergic because the water is contained and not reliant on a filter to circulate air
  • Boilers are highly efficient and can cut heating bills
  • Hydronic heating is completely silent, unlike some other types of heating systems
  • They are safe to touch because a wall system doesn't get too hot to touch

Hydronic heating systems often come with long warranty periods of up to 25 years. This is because the boiler is reliable and water simply moves through pipes to underfloor pipes or wall units. There are few moving parts and a hydronic system won't break down as other types of heating systems do.

Hydronic heating systems have few moving parts:

  • A boiler unit
  • A pump for wall mounted systems
  • Trench convectors for underfloor systems
  • A thermostat

Disadvantages of hydronic heating systems

There are some disadvantages to hydronic heating systems, too, but they may not be as serious as the advantages:

  • It can take up to 30 minutes to heat a room
  • Hydronic heating systems can be expensive to install
  • Retrofitting a hydronic system is not recommended for underfloor systems

A wall mounted system can be retrofitted, but keep in mind that wall repairs may be needed in some places. If you're building a new home, the cost of installation won't be as high because the installers can come in and install either an underfloor system or wall system.

The cost of running a hydronic heating system

Hydronic heating systems are less expensive to run than some other types of heaters. By some calculations, hydronic heating systems are 35 percent more cost effective than running a ducted system. However, Sustainability Victoria has estimated the costs of different types of heaters and by their estimates, hydronic systems are not that much more efficient than other systems: In a medium sized house of around 160m2, the costs may be:

  • $1375 for gas ducted (3 Star) or $1045 for a 6 Star system
  • $1295 for reverse cycle air conditioning (2 Star) or $835 for a 5 Star system
  • $1045 to $1255 for hydronic heating

Hydronic heating systems do not have Star ratings, but the figures show a higher Star rating for a gas ducted or reverse cycle system can save significant money.

These are average costs and don't reflect the amount of time a heater is used. A hydronic system can be left on all day and the running costs should be lower than gas ducted or reverse cycle air conditioning. It should also be noted that reverse cycle air conditioning is more expensive to cool than to heat. Hydronic systems are less expensive than either gas ducted or reverse cycle systems, but the cost savings should be measured over a period of years and the number of hours the system is used.

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How much does a hydronic heating system cost to install?*

Hydronic heating systems cost between $2500 and $3000, but that doesn't include installation costs. By some estimates, it takes around 12 hours to install a wall mounted system and the installation cost may be between $695 and $875, bringing the total to $3470 to $4200. This price is for a new home and retrofitting a hydronic heating system may cost more because of the extra labour involved.

When retrofitting a hydronic heating system, expect to pay around $1300 to $1600 per radiator, including installation. There is usually only one radiator per room, so if you are installing radiators in four rooms, the cost would be between $5200 and $6400. The pipes are usually installed under the house and little damage is done to the walls. If you have a slab, retrofitting wall panels may be more difficult and some repairs will be needed to the walls.

Underfloor hydronic heating costs around $65m2. In an average sized house of 160m2, the cost would be around $10,400, which also includes both the system and installation, but does not include the cost of the boiler. In screed hydronic heating costs more. First the pipes are laid and then concrete is poured over them. In screed hydronic heating costs around $103m2 and the boiler is not included in the price.

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A reverse cycle air conditioning system costs $5000 or more. Air conditioning installers charge between $60 and $110 per hour and more than one may be needed to install a reverse cycle air conditioning system. Even a wall hung split system can cost between $600 and $750 to install and ducted reverse cycle air conditioning systems take much longer to install.

One of the disadvantages of hydronic systems is that they are expensive to install compared with other heating systems. However, when you consider the long warranty period, they may be cheaper to run in the long run than another system, which may only have a 10 year warranty. The one disadvantage of a hydronic heating system may be if a pipe ruptures, water damage can occur, but this happens rarely.

Why consider installing a hydronic heating system?

A hydronic heating system is perfect for a new home installation because the installation costs will be less expensive. Underfloor heating may be ideal because the heat will warm the floor and radiate upwards. Having radiators installed in every room will also make a room feel warm, but you won't get the instant heat of other types of heaters.

Hydronic heating systems often come with 25 year warranties, which means if anything goes wrong, you won't have to pay for repairs. They come with long warranties because they are very efficient heaters and the pipes used rarely burst and cause damage to a home.

Hydronic heating systems have many advantages over ducted heating. They are especially convenient if anyone in the family has allergies because they are enclosed systems that don't blow hot air into a room through a filter. Hydronic heating systems are also quiet and you won't hear them working. They are definitely worth considering and may be perfect for many homes in temperate climates where high heat is not needed.

*Costs and prices in this article are indicative and should only be used as a guide. They also vary locally and are subject to market forces.

You might also like: What is Hydronic Heating?

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