floor heating systems
Floor Heating Systems Radiant Floor Heating Under Floor Heating

Electric or Hydronic Floor Heating

Which Floor Heating Option Is Best For Your Home?

There are all kinds of ways to heat your home. People have used wood, gas and electric to heat homes for many years and though the fuel would differ the delivery was similar, a large furnace type device with a fan pushing heated air around the home.

This is commonly referred to as a forced air heating system, however today homeowners have even more choices with electric and hydronic floor heating options. This type of radiant floor heating is actually becoming quite popular however which one should you choose?

Electric Under Floor Heating

Electric under floor heating generally consists of electric cables, however there are also systems that utilize electrically conducive plastic matting. Both are installed below the subfloor just under your floor covering. As these coils or mats conduct electricity, heat is released warming your tiles or floor coverings.

Hydronic Floor Heating

Hydronic floor heating is accomplished by hot water that is pumped through pipes. These are also installed in the floor; however, they must be set in a specific amount of concrete, which will often result in significant floor buildup. This type of system will also require special equipment such as a boiler and pump.


There are several things to consider when deciding between hydronic floor heating systems and electric. You will need to consider cost, operations and efficiency as well as your current heating needs. For example, if you live in a very cold climate you will have different heating requirements than if you live in a more temperate region.

Initial Cost - When comparing these two floor heating types you will find the initial installation costs for the hydronic unit will be significantly higher than an electric unit, this is due to the necessity of purchasing a boiler system. For example if you were to install floor heating in an average size bathroom the cost for an electric system would be a few hundred while hydronics would cost several thousand.

Installation - hydronic units are generally more time and labor intensive to install, particularly if you are doing a remodel. A thick layer of concrete is required for laying the tubing and a separate boiler room is often necessary. Of course, if this is a new construction, the cost could be somewhat lower. Electric floor heating is much cheaper and easier to install whether it is a new construction or remodel.

Efficiency - This is where the differences in the two systems is really pronounced. Electric floor heating is placed just under your floor covering and as such results in quick heating. Hydronic units will take several hours to heat up in contrast. Of course, you have to balance this against the cost of electricity in your location. Hydronic units are better suited than electric when you are trying to heat a large area, especially in manufacturing where the floor space can be several thousand square feet.


Generally speaking electric floor heating is the best option for residential applications and hydronic units work best for businesses and manufacturing. That being said there are always exceptions to every rule, when you are building a new home in an area known for cold temperatures a hydronic unit over time could save your more money. Regardless of the type of floor heating systems you choose be sure and consult a professional who has experience in the field and discuss with them your needs and budget.