We realize that of the three elements, heated air is the least efficient so that leaves us with the remaining choices of water or electric. Water, or a hydroponic system, requires an initial investment in a boiler, solar water heater, or other similar component. Due to the size and nature of this investment, you may wish to consider a hydroponic system if you plan to heat your entire home. This system can be zoned but is not as cost-effective if utilized in this manner. Electric systems tend to be more efficient in zoned areas or smaller homes.
Hydroponic systems are typically installed under concrete. This means it takes quite awhile for the floor to heat up and cool down. This can be a benefit as it does not need to be run as often as electric heat. Electric systems usually heat a floor within a time span of forty minutes to an hour and do not need to be embedded in concrete. Unlike heated water, electric floors will cycle up and down more quickly.
Another important item for consideration is the fact that electric floors have no moving parts and therefore do not require maintenance. Conversely, water-heated flooring does operate with moving parts and consists of an intricate tubing system which can malfunction. The good news is that tubing used today is nearly leak proof and highly durable (see previous blog post for recommendations). The odds of it malfunctioning are small.
As you can see, there are several pros and cons to both systems. Additionally, it is vital that your floor covering is compatible with the system you choose. If your flooring is inadequate, it could potentially void your warranty. So, be sure to consult a professional installer who can recommend the best system for your home!