I have seen the television shows and read the articles in the diy magazines discussing what each expert believes is the best and most efficient way to heat and cool your home. Usually the expert’s favored way is what they are selling. This is often misleading to homeowners.
After installing and or working on many different types of heating and cooling equipment I have settled on my idea of the best way to heat and cool a home. My ideal way is not what I am always selling either, but not usually the cheapest option.
If your home has the area to install 2 separate systems and you could afford to, or have the insight of your future comfort, than the best way would be to install a hydronic heating system along with a central air conditioning system. Many believe that you can only have one style in your home, but in most homes with some planning from your plumbing/hvac contractor the systems can be installed.
Hydronic boilers heat water (hydronic) that is then used to heat many types of equipment, there are now many options. Most boilers are smaller than in the past and can be installed in tighter spaces (check local codes), and most heating components can be used in conjunction with each other when piped correctly.
The most affordable type of heating equipment is copper fin baseboard, it can be adapted to varying lengths but can be easily damaged. Cast iron baseboard and radiators are my favorite, more expensive but you have better control of the heat and they are hard to damage. There are many types of radiant heating elements such as Onyx and Pex, some can be installed under flooring, others on top of the floor with some type of cement to cover the piping. Some of the radiant tubing can be installed where you want it, others are to be laid in pre grooved boards, so there is no mistake as to where they should be placed.
When a hydronic heating system is properly laid out and installed it can be a very efficient and comfortable heat. Critics will say that the cost of installing a hydronic heating system will offset any comfort and efficiency, but from my experience that is false. With a forced air heating system homeowners will spend many of their hours and dollars counteracting the side effects of the hot, dry air being blown into your home. Homeowners will need to install and maintain humidifiers, filters, electronic air cleaners, UV light filters and have the ducts cleaned, to name just a few, to be comfortable with forced air.
Hydronic heat has several benefits that forced air heat does not. Hydronic heat can easily be zoned and controlled for different areas, very easy to maintain, temperature in heated areas does not fluctuate much where as with forced air as soon as the furnace shuts off the chill come back.
If your home has only a hydronic boiler then I would suggest installing a central air system. I have installed them for many years in older homes, not my most favorite of jobs, but the outcome is nice. A home that only had hot water heat for 70 years now is cooled in the summer. When a contractor takes their time to properly install the duct work and take into account eccentricities of a home the cost of adding a 2nd system to a home will be well worth it. A whole hose central air conditioning system is always the way to go, much more efficient than any window or through the wall air conditioner and any mini air conditioning unit.
Most homeowners do not think they have the money for the installation of a second mechanical system in their house, but when given the opportunity these options should be seriously considered.
As always when making any decisions that will affect your home you should make yourself well informed on the subject.