Electric radiant floor heating and hydronic radiant heating are different systems, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the criteria you can use to decide which is more suitable for your house.
Both systems use heat radiation as the primary form of warmth transfer. This is a highly efficient form of heating, since almost all the heat energy is available for heating the rooms and their occupants. A small amount of heat energy may also be transferred through convection. This enables the upper layers of air in the house to get heated as well. Since both these systems of heating use the same methods for heat transfer, their heating ability is roughly the same.
The ease of installation and the installation costs are also important factors to keep in mind when installing radiant floor heating systems. Electric radiant floor heating systems use heating cables that are laid under the floor tiles. Hydronic radiant heating systems rely on pipes that are placed under the floor pipes. These pipes carry a heated liquid, usually water or oil, which is used to heat the floor.
Since the hydronic system also requires a system for heating the liquid that runs in the pipes, the initial installation can be a little more complicated and expensive as compared to the electric system. However, keep in mind that the skill and experience of the local contractors in your area will also play a huge factor in determining ease of installation and installation costs.
Running costs for both these floor heating systems vary considerably, depending on the type of system that you have, the area of the floor space to be heated, and the cost of electricity in your area. Generally speaking, it is more expensive to operate an electric radiant floor heating system. However, if you have a large floor area that is to be heated and the electricity prices in your area are not that high, this equation may change. Hydronic systems use an oil or gas boiler to heat the liquid that is used to heat your house. With the rising oil and gas prices, the running costs for such systems are expected to rise.
The maintenance costs can be slightly higher for a hydronic radiant heating system as compared to an electric radiant floor heating system because there are more parts involved. In addition, burst or leaking heating pipes can lead to serious damage to your home and the location of the pipes can make leakages difficult and expensive to repair.