Selecting A Heat Source

24 July 2017
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The heat source is the engine of your hydronic heating system, so it’s important you choose one that works reliably and efficiently. But with so many options on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for your system.  A key consideration when choosing your heat source is running costs. However, this can be challenging to determine due to the variability in the types of fuels available, and fluctuating prices in Australia.

Keep in mind that the actual cost of heating will depend on the area heated, how long your system runs for, how well insulated your home is, the thermostat settings, your energy tariffs, and of course, your local climate.

Below we’ve listed the different types of heat sources available, and key points to consider when purchasing yours.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are an extremely efficient way of heating water and are suitable for households that don’t have access to natural gas. Like boilers, they can be used for both domestic hot water and hydronic heating.  

Heat pumps are extremely energy efficient due to their inverse refrigeration cycle, which means they can produce much more energy than they consume. Heat pumps have a lower running cost than traditional gas fired boilers, thanks to their reduced energy input.  

Natural Gas Boilers

Many homeowners with access to natural gas choose natural gas boilers for the ease of installation. They also come highly recommended by many hydronic heating professionals and are used in a majority of hydronic heating systems in Australia.

Natural gas is a favourable option because it’s one of the most efficient fuels for boilers, making natural gas boilers extremely cost effective to run. High efficiency condensing boilers powered by natural gas are even more efficient, and can achieve a thermal efficiency of up to 98.6%.

LPG Boilers

LPG boilers are easy to install and maintain. Many homeowners without access to a mains gas supply choose LPG for its ease of use (you simply need to replace the gas bottle), and it produces fewer carbon emissions than many other heating systems. While slightly more expensive to run than a natural gas boiler, they’re definitely cheaper than electric or oil powered heating. LPG gas bottles can be expensive to buy, but many industry experts recommend these boilers as the next best option if natural gas is not available.  

LPG & Natural Gas Combination Boilers

Many homes are turning to combination (or combi) boilers, to bring together their water heater and their hydronic heating boiler. When you install a combi boiler, you don’t have to worry about installing a separate hot water storage service, so it can save you a significant amount of space.

Regular combination boilers can service two taps at a time. Many people choose to install them in large homes but only plumb them up to one or two bathrooms to act as a backup if their other hot water service goes down.

Wood Pellet Boilers

If you have the resources to invest in a wood pellet boiler and you don’t have access to natural gas, then this is a very comfortable and stylish way to heat your home. Wood pellet boilers can provide all the comforts of gas fired boilers, including hydronic heating and domestic hot water.  

Some advantages of wood pellet boilers include price stability, as wood pellets aren’t subject to price changes like gas. Wood pellets are also a renewable source of energy, as they are produced from wood waste, and are much cleaner to burn than non-renewables such as gas and LPG.

Many pellet boilers are also fully automatic and self-cleaning, which means there’s not much physical work involved in their upkeep. Furthermore, many models also heat the room in which they’re installed, making it a highly cost-effective, off-grid solution to home heating.

Diesel Boilers

While more expensive to run than natural gas boilers and heat pumps, boilers can be highly efficient to operate. In fact, some condensing diesel boilers enable efficiencies of up to 95%.

Some property owners, such as farmers, may find they’re eligible for diesel subsidies, which can make their fuel costs quite low – possibly lower than that of LPG or wood pellet boilers. Diesel boilers also very robust and reliable, requiring very little maintenance and upkeep.

Electric Boilers

Electric boilers are the more expensive to run but are affordable to install. This is because they don’t emit any waste, and therefore don’t require the installation of any flues or chimneys. As little energy is lost during the heating process, electric boilers are very efficient. However, given the rising cost of electricity, they can be very expensive to run in the long-term.

As electric boilers are smaller in size, they are not suitable for larger homes with high levels of heating requirements. If your hot water requirements are greater, you can choose a boiler coupled with a storage cylinder that can provide enough hot water for up to three bathrooms.

Still Not Sure Which Heat Source Is Best?

If you’re still unsure about the best heat source for your hydronic heating system, contact the team at Hunt Heating today. We’ll help you calculate how much energy your home requires to stay comfortable, and which heat source is best suited to your budget and requirements.