Hydronic Heating and Cooling Piping Explained

Hydronic heating systems are used for transferring heat into buildings. These systems have been growing in their efficiency for years as the technology associated with them has advanced. Depending on the type of materials used for the piping, that efficiency could be increased even further.

Here’s an overview of what you should know about hydronic heating and cooling piping installations and the various options available.

How it works

Hydronics use water as the primary heat transference medium for both heating and cooling systems. Hydronic piping systems will circulate hot or cold water, and the connections between the piping and the terminal units occur in a continuous loop. Those terminal units function as heat exchangers for both hot and cold water.

Material options

There are multiple different types of materials used in hydronic heating and cooling systems. Some of the most popular examples include:

  • ABS pipes: Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) pipes are known for their durability. They hold up well to chemical exposure and are resistant to water degradation. They’re most frequently used for sewer systems and drain-waste-vent piping, but are also common for electrical insulation. They’re only recommended for use for indoor settings, because they can deform with exposure to the sun.
  • PVC pipes: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes are another extremely common option for home plumbing systems. They’re resistant to acids, alkalis and salts, and are able to withstand water degradation. They can be used in both above- and below-ground settings.
  • Copper pipes: Copper continues to be a popular choice for home plumbing applications for a wide range of reasons, including its outstanding durability and its resistance to forming leaks. Copper pipes are also a recyclable material, which makes them an environmentally-friendly option, and are capable of holding up to fluctuations in temperature, so they can be used in a variety of climates. However, copper can be tough to install, and it’s more expensive than other options on this list.
  • PEX: PEX pipes are a cross-linked polyethylene variety, a construction designed to make the material stronger and last longer. Applications for PEX pipes include hydronic radiant cooling and heating systems, as well as various other piping applications. It’s flexible, durable and capable of standing up to both hot and cold temperatures.
  • Lead pipes: While lead pipes are banned from residential use due to health concerns, there are still some drainage and ventilation systems that use lead pipes for their flexibility, corrosion resistance and malleability. They’re particularly common in chemical plants, power plants, paper manufacturing and other types of industrial facilities.
  • Steel pipes: Steel is broadly used for industrial applications in piping systems for its versatility, durability, ease of installation and easy maintenance. However, because it’s prone to rust, it requires more maintenance than other options on this list, which is an added expense that can add up to be quite expensive over an extended time.

For more information about choosing piping materials for hydronic heating and cooling installations, get in touch with the team at ACMS Group today. We’d be glad to answer your questions.

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