Hydronic radiant floor heating systems use a boiler to heat up hot water and a pump to circulate the hot water in plastic pipes installed in a concrete slab. The pipes, embedded in the floor, carry heated water that conduct warmth to the surface of the floor where it broadcasts energy to the room.
Typically, hydronic heating system breakdowns involve the boiler, water heater, circulation pump or controls. If you've looked into radiant heating systems or asked contractors about the option, you may have heard "horror stories" of homeowners having to replace the floors to fix a problem. In the past, hydronic systems were known for their high maintenance costs and potential leakage problems.
However, the most common pipes used today are leak resistant, non-toxic, high-temperature, flexible piping called cross-linked polyethylene or PEX as it is known in the industry. Popular due to the fact that it can handle both aggressive concrete additives and also water conditions while not becoming brittle over time, PEX tubing has been used in Europe since the 1970s and in the US since the 1980s. PEX tubing has proven to be much more reliable.
It is important to select quality materials in a radiant floor heating project, as leaks or system failures are not easy to fix. In the 90s, hydronic systems installed in 658 homes turned out to be defective. The class action lawsuit from homeowners resulted in millions of dollars in compensation