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Hydronic Heating Systems

Wood-fuelled hydronic heating systems utilize some form of heater which is usually located in a small outbuilding and is used to heat water which is then pumped to the building it is designed to heat and supply with hot water. In colder climes, the water has antifreeze added  and is then connected by a heat exchanger to the potable water system.

In the system shown below, the control unit which regulates the operation of the boiler and radiators within the house is located in the basement.

A Typical Hydronic Heating System

Units such as this may use other forms of biomass fuel for convenience.

In the USA, the EPA has expressed concern about hydronic units in which users burn green wood, as this generates a lot more smoke. Even worse is when people burn household trash or construction debris, as this not only releases a cocktail of harmful chemicals and pollution but can also be infringing state law.

To improve the situation, the EPA runs a voluntary program for the designers and makers of hydronic heaters with the intention of persuading them to design and build less-polluting hydronic heater systems. Users are urged to buy only those models which qualify for the EPA’s voluntary program. It is estimated that systems which conform to the recommendations of the EPA are about 90% more efficient that older installations.

Hydronic heaters which do not conform to the EPA’s specification are generally much dirtier and less efficient than most other systems used for home heating. The use of poor and inappropriate fuels leads to smoldering fires and the short smokestacks (often no more than six to ten feet high), create heavy smoke which is released close to the ground. This is dangerous for people around the installation as well as causing aggravation and the smoke may persist low down where there is insufficient breeze to remove it.

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