Steve McCoy, Vice-President of Business Development for propane provider Blossman Gas, decided that when his gas furnace developed a crack in the heat exchanger, he wanted another solution that didn’t involve purchasing a new furnace. Instead, he came up with the idea of incorporating hydronic forced-air heating powered by a propane tankless water heater. He used a Renai tankless water heater and their hydronic water air handler for this. His own home would be a display center for the propane industry. The new, innovative improvement to the propane world would be a major opportunity to improve comfort, efficiency, and space savings for propane users nationwide. 

McCoy said that the installation of his own tankless unit saved him 200 cubic feet compared to the unit he had before. This would give other homeowners more room to change their spaces, possibly adding a closet or other storage space. He also now had one appliance performing multiple jobs. When comparing a tankless hydronic heater to a gas furnace, the hydronic heater only requires one gas appliance. This means fewer vents and connections to install during the installation process, making it faster and easier when compared to a gas furnace installation. Installing the hydronic tank is fairly easy since the furnace’s gas line and ventilation can be reused. This can save the installer two to three hours by not having to add additional gas lines or re-do venting.

How Does it Work?

Hydronic forced-air heating uses hot water as a heat source in a home or building’s air handlers. When the wall thermostat calls for heat, it engages a pump. It engages the flow of hot water from the tankless water heater into the air handler. Hot water then passes through the hydronic heating coil in the air handlers. The air is heated as the blower moves the heated air into the home or structure it is in. Water continues to circulate through the tankless water heater and the hydronic heating coil as long as there is a call for heat. There is a priority switch which allows domestic hot water to continue to flow if there is an excess demand somewhere else in the house like a sink or shower.

A heat checklist for a tankless unit

Tankless water heater manufacturers have recently launched air handling units and controls designs specifically to work with tankless units. The hydronic forced-air system ranges from 17k to 77k BTUs. This makes them an effective alternative to gas furnaces and electric backup heat. For comparison, heat pumps deliver temperatures that can feel cool around 95 degrees. Gas furnaces heat air at around 140 degrees. Air handlers with a hydronic heating loop can reach a level of 130 degrees. Propane tankless water heaters can meet home heating capacity!

A diagram of how a house gets heated using a tankless unit

Benefits of a Hydronic Forced-Air Heating Appliance

McCoy states that, “In the gas industry you’re competing against electric for market share.” For this reason it is important to highlight the advantages gas heating provides versus electric. Some of the following benefits include:

  • A hydronic forced-air heating appliance is compact, so it is great for families with smaller homes or multi-family units. It would work great in a closet style application. As stated above, McCoy said that the installation of his own tankless unit saved him 200 cubic feet compared to the unit he had before. 
  • It eliminates the need for a separate electric or gas storage tank water heater.  
  • Relatively easy installation process. 
  • Hydronic heating systems can provide cost savings to users. McCoy found that when he compared his gas unit to his hydronic unit, he used 0.21 gallons per degree day instead of 0.28 with his gas unit. 
  • They heat water continuously on demand. There is no need to worry about running out of domestic hot water in your home while using this heater.
  • The system provides balanced humidity and a level of heat that is warmer and more comfortable than a heat pump. It is less extreme than a furnace to help avoid temperature stratification closer to ducts which means you will have an even heat throughout your home. 
  • Tankless water heaters offer reliability and thermal efficiency, with condensing units achieving efficiency levels up to 94 percent.

The benefits of a tankless unit

Enhancing Comfort & Optimizing Your Tankless Water Heater Installation

The technicians that install your heating unit are able to customize the way you heat your home. They can control the air speed across the coil and the output temperature of the tankless water heater. They are also able to control the flow rate of hot water to ensure the system is running at the most comfortable levels for you. 

Due to its tankless location, installing the tankless water heater close to the air handler helps avoid thermal loss on the plumbing lines as the hot water is delivered to the hydronic loops. One of the most important features for customers is the priority switch. When the house has a high demand for domestic hot water to the faucets or shower, a priority switch can shut down the air handler to prioritize domestic hot water demand. 

Overall, hydronic forced-air heating is great for most homes that have propane heaters, especially those who have a small space to put their heater. It saves customers money, space, and installation time. Here at Independence Propane, we offer the propane fuel for hot water heaters, as well as supplying and installing the tanks. To learn more about the services we provide, or to see if we can help you with your home’s heating, contact us today!