Can I buy or convert to a heat pump hydronic system?

Can I buy or convert to a heat pump hydronic system?

Heat pump hydronics in Australia is possible but face a few challenges:

  1. It’s an expensive solution – unlike in Europe the systems and installation tend to be priced at a premium as a “luxury” system. Installing a system during a renovation may cost approx. $30k. 
  2. It can be hard to find a good, knowledgeable company which wants to install heat pump hydronics. Most hydronic companies in Australia just want to install gas boilers, which is what they’re familiar with.
  3. Efficiency is lower than good standard air-air heat pumps, i.e. reverse cycle air conditioners.

Converting from gas-powered to electric/solar powered hydronics can be tricky, because the water is heated to a different temperature, so all the radiators may need to be changed. There are also other considerations, such as whether the water running through the system contains anti-freeze, anti-rust, etc. 

Underfloor hydronics may require insulation under the concrete slab, as well as on the sides of the slab, as heat can radiate down and out of the sides. There is a lag to the space being warmed, while the slab itself heats up. 
In terms of using solar for hydronic heating, climate can come into it as well - if you are mainly heating during a cold, dark night, solar can't help you! That said, if it's a well-insulated home, you can potentially warm it during the afternoon and have the heating turned off after sunset. Some places, like Canberra, might be better suited to this - with their cold, clear days and higher solar radiation. 

The main advantage of hydronics is the “quality” of the heat as it’s radiant. But a similar result can be obtained in other ways, e.g. building or renovating to a PassivHaus standard.

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