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I am looking to install radiant heating in my single-family house (300 sq. ft.), and I am primarily interested in hydronic radiant because my calculated heat loss is likely around 10kBTU/hr, which is within the capability of my existing tankless water heater (saving me some money on setup). I can also take advantage of solar water heating and storage to help offset the heating (and cooling) cost, and SWH is less expensive than solar electric generation. Additionally, the cost to install electric radiant would be significantly higher, making an electric option more expensive up front and over time.

So with hydronic radiant in mind, I would like to know what peoples' experiences have been with ceiling hydronic radiant heating, and what tips/tricks help them work at their best.

I have played around with hydronic floor radiant, but the problem is that I don't have crawlspace access, the floor is uninsulated, and any solution (short of redoing the subfloor) will add at least 1-2" to my floor height, which is a problem.

I recently read that radiant ceilings (and walls) do exist and that they can work well, but I am skeptical since I have never encountered one. The benefit would be that such a solution would simply sit under the attic insulation I will add anyway, so it doesn't take up any more space. I can also add insulation above my subfloor without worrying about having a hydronic system on top of that too.

  • I don't have any experience with ceiling radiant, but do have a hydronic system at my home. I can see the appeal for you as you'd only need to add ceiling panels, a circulator pump, and a thermostat. Unlike flooring you can run the ceiling panels at a higher temp, maybe even 120F like your domestic hot water so you don't even need a thermostatic valve. – Shimon Rura Feb 22 '17 at 20:52
  • Being able to run at a single temperature is part of the appeal. I suppose I could use a pair of solenoid valves and a mixing tank to down-regulate from a hotter temperature, if needed, but avoiding it would be nice. – Hari Ganti Feb 22 '17 at 23:51
  • If you need to reduce the temperature, you can use a thermostatic mixing valve. You don't need electronics or a tank; this is a standard mechanical valve that is used frequently in hydronic heating applications (e.g. where you have high-temp radiators and low-temp in-floor heat driven by the same boiler). – Shimon Rura Feb 23 '17 at 4:51
  • While true, that doesn't afford me variable heating. Instead, I am left with only on-off control, which is far more crude than adjusting the water temperature to match heating load. – Hari Ganti Feb 23 '17 at 5:49
  • I could never figure out why people put in ceiling cable heat other than it was dirt cheap in the 50's & 60's in my area. I only see these systems when a room or system fails so on the electric side I could not recommend. water would be worse if a screw or molly bolt damaged the plumbing as I have found many times but with water leaks up in the ceiling it now may come down. It works but is very slow to respond and requires very good insulation because the heat wants to go up. – Ed Beal Feb 23 '17 at 18:08

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