Whole-House Radiant Heating Hydronic radiant floors are heated by warm water pumped through plastic tubing. Other components in a typical hydronic system include a boiler or water heater, a circulation pump, a manifold of valves to control water distribution, and a thermostat to control temperature. Due to size and complexity, most hydronic systems are installed by plumbers and/or HVAC contractors. The cost for an entire heating system ranges between $6 and $12 per square foot — two to three times the cost of other heating systems. However, a hydronic system offers substantial operational savings when used throughout the house, or at least over an entire level. At this scale, you can save around one-third over what you'd pay to heat by forced air. Carpet, tile, and vinyl flooring can go down over a hydronic masonry floor, although some efficiency is lost if you install a carpet pad. Tubing can also go down beneath a wood floor; it gets installed directly under the finish flooring or fastened to the underside of the subfloor, between joists (see illustrations). The joist-space option can work well in retrofit applications, provided you have access beneath the floor you want to heat.
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