A radiant heating system can be set up to work with practically any source that can heat up water. Therefore, home owners who chose to install such a system are not tied to ever rising costs of oil and gas, but instead can consider alternative and green energy sources such as solar and heat pumps.
A heat pump is a mechanism that is used to extract heat from a source with lower temperature and transfer it into a source with a higher temperature. A heat pump can also be used for cooling, however, only the heating option is needed in radiant heating systems.
While air-source heat pumps are very common, geothermal heat pumps are considered to be more efficient for a radiant heating system. The difference between the two pumps is that instead of using outside air, a geothermal heat pump absorbs heat from the earth.
A geothermal system consists of a circuit of polyethylene tubes that are laid underground. A mix of water and refrigerant is then used as a method of heat transfer. The heat pump cools down the liquid that is flowing underground to the degree that is below the earth temperature. Once underground, heat from earth is absorbed unto the liquid, and the heat is extracted once the water reaches the heat pump on its way back. This is a closed loop system, therefore once heat is extracted, the water is cooled again and the cycle is repeated for as long as the heat pump remains turned on. The size of the piping loop should be correlated to the size of the property that needs to be heated. Depending on various factors, such as property size or soil texture, the loops can be either horizontal or vertical. In horizontal installation, 4 to 7 feet trenches are dug and pipe is laid down. In vertical loop installation, which is more costly, a 100 to 500 feet hole is drilled and piping is inserted into it.
The advantage of such a system is that underground temperature is relatively constant and warm, unlike the outside temperature which fluctuates from hot to cold. Most households that use heat pumps also have a back up heater or a boiler in place to be used if a need arises.
A geothermal heat pump is expensive to install, due to the cost of the pump itself as well costs involved with IGSHPA) guidelines.
Geothermal heat pumps may be effective when used for a radiant heating system to heat a house; the heat pump supplies hot water, while PEX tubing transports it to heat the floors. Both systems use green technology, while delivering comfort and savings to the home owner.