There are many sources for radiant heating systems. At Gagnon, we can do radiant heat using geothermal, Oil Boiler System, Propane System, Wood Boilers, and any other type of hydronic type (water source) system. These systems may vary in efficiency and affordability. Each will provide the similar comfort.
Radiant Heat can be distributed in many ways, concrete, staple up, between sleepers, Warmboard, Raupanels, etc.
Most folks believe they have an efficient system if the boiler or heat pump (source) is efficient. This is not necessarily accurate. A radiant heat system is most efficient when distributing the lowest water temperature to achieve the highest BTU output. This is why it is important to use products that have good heat transfer characteristics.
Flooring is an important factor in designing the radiant system. Different floor coverings have different R values. Carpet for instance can significantly decrease your BTU output per sq. ft. making the system less efficient. This is a good example of flooring that works against you and not with you. Often, additional heat is needed with carpet. Tile on the other hand works well as it has a much lower R Value than carpet. Wood flooring can also work well. When using wood flooring, it is recommended to use narrow boards instead of wide boards. This gives you more expansion and contraction joints in the floor. Quartersawn cut hardwood flooring is recommended, as it is more stable.
Another very efficient system to consider using is a three pass boiler with an outdoor reset control. We would recommend Viessmann Boilers to be the most efficient available. This is the Mercedes of Boilers; its triple pass design utilizes the heat from the flue gas much more than a pin type boiler, thus lowering the stack temperature going out the chimney. In addition we can add an outdoor reset control to do a few things for us: One, it looks at the outdoor temperature to determine what water temperature to deliver to the floors which gives us a more even temperature in the building. Also, it will shut the burner down earlier based on outdoor temperature to minimize fuel consumption. This system is typically done with an injection pump to inject the amount of hot water into the radiant system.