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5 Things a Home Inspector Should Know About Hydronic Heat Systems

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Some homeowners think it’s a trend. Other homeowners don’t know how they’d live without it. Hydronic home heating systems can warm a whole house or just the coldest part of a floor. As a certified home inspector, you might only find hydronic systems in a few homes here and there. Learn how they tick now and you won’t be stumped when cold weather rolls around again.

#1: Radiant Floor Heating is Installed Under the Flooring

Radiant systems are usually supplementary to the home’s main heating system. In milder climates, however, they could suffice as the primary heat source. Installed under flooring, such as tile or wood, they warm the floor and the room as heat rises. They’re also great for warming a footpath in a cold bathroom or kitchen.

#2: Hydronic Radiant Systems Use Warm Liquid

Hydronic is only one type of in-floor radiant heating system. Some of them are electric warming mats installed under tile or another flooring. Hydronic systems use heated liquid that runs through a network of small piping or tubing under the floor. The liquid may be water, says HydronicHeating.net, glycol, or a mix of liquids.

#3: Hot Liquid is Supplied by Water Heaters, Boilers and Heat Pumps

The heating unit that feeds a hydronic system may be a water heater, either tankless or traditional, or a solar heater. Homes that have a boiler for the main home heating system may tap into it as a heat source for radiant heat, as well. Geothermal heat pumps provide a dependable, constant supply of warm water with lower costs than a gas system or a traditional electric water heater.

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Hydronic pool heaters make chilly nights perfect for a swim.

#4: Indoors Isn’t the Only Place You’ll Find a Hydronic Radiant Heating System

Homeowners have discovered the benefits of radiant heat and now they’re branching out. In some colder climates, you may find a hydronic system that warms a driveway and walkway to melt off winter snow. If the home has a pool. a hydronic system embedded in or buried under the pool keeps the water comfortable.

#5: Many Defects are Hidden

The hidden nature of a hydronic system makes it difficult to spot defects. If there’s a leak, you’ll see signs of water. That’s the most common defect you’ll find. Other defects may include faulty thermostats or defects with the liquid heating unit. Many defects are neither visible nor accessible. Inspectapedia says homeowners might complain of inferior heating, which could indicate that the system is buried too deep, the tubing is improperly installed or there’s a combination of problems. For those, it’s wise to recommend a deeper investigation by a qualified hydronic system installer.

They’re not necessarily taking the home heating world by storm, but many homeowners swear by hydronic systems. For mild climates, they can add just enough heat to keep a home warm through the wintertime. In bitter cold climates, they warm floors and add another layer of heat to supplement the main heating system. They’re an interesting choice for older homes with limited ductwork access, as well.

In your career as a certified home inspector, you’ll find that some home systems are as common as a copper penny. Others might stump you. If you maintain your knowledge base through continuing education, you’ll stay up on the latest systems while keeping older skills fresh.

If you’re ready to learn the home inspection trade and start a new career, ICA School is here to help set you on the right path. Enroll now and start earning your certification on your own time and at a pace that fits your life.

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