Underfloor heating systems are becoming increasingly popular these days, particularly in bathrooms and kitchens where space for (or the aesthetics of) a radiator is often an issue.
How does underfloor heating work?
Well, simply put, the pipework for the heating is placed under the floor making the floor the heat emitter. Unlike conventional central heating systems where a radiator circulates the hot air from a fixed single position, the room is more efficiently heated from the full surface of the floor, bouncing back from the ceiling and circulating up again.
There are 2 main underfloor heating systems available on the market. Both are very similar, except one uses electric cables to heat and the other is via heated water pipes under the floor.
Electric vs Water – which system to choose?
Electrical systems are cable and mat based and laid beneath the floor; the flexibility of the electrical cables mean that it’s easier to install and less time consuming. A non-professional would be able to lay the cables and mats, however you would need to hire a qualified electrician to connect the system up to the mains and fit the sensors. Electrical systems are generally cheaper to install vs a wet or water system, however on the flip side, the running costs of an electrical system are higher so long-term it might not be the most economical option.
Wet or water systems do require professional intervention to install as you will need a good working knowledge of central heating systems, and you may need to upgrade your current boiler as part of the process if your current model is not compatible with this system, so it can incur extra costs. Water based systems take up more space than electrical ones, so installing them into an existing floor can be difficult – they are best suited to new floor constructions. They can be retrospectively installed, but it can be more time-consuming and expensive to raise a floor. The running costs of this type of system, however, are very low vs an electrical system making this more cost effective in the long term.
What are the main advantages of underfloor heating?
Great for use in smaller rooms such as a bathroom where wall space is limited.
Can be used with almost any flooring type eg, laminate, tile, lino and carpet (only if it’s under 1.5 tog).
The heat eliminates dust mites from carpets and the lack of radiator means that dust doesn’t gather behind it or circulate around the room; great for allergy sufferers.
A warm floor is comfortable under foot, particularly on flooring types which are typically cold eg tiles or stone.
Can save you up to 50% on your heating bills, and it has virtually no maintenance cost as once installed and tested there is very little which will need looking after.
Very quiet to run; no more noisy pipes creaking and popping!
Whilst it takes longer than radiators for the heat to rise up through the floor, it does provide warmth for longer after its been switched off than a traditional radiator would.
Each room can be set with its own thermostat so you don’t need to have the whole house the same temperature.
Points to consider:
Underfloor heating cannot be used under cupboards or furniture, so you would need to know the position of these before it is installed. This is because it can provide condensation within cupboards where there is no air flow, eg in a kitchen.
The system needs to be installed well and thought needs to be put into the layout of the pipework/cables as it is very difficult to change the system once it has been put in place.
It can be expensive and often impractical to install underfloor heating retrospectively; the best time to put this in is when a room is getting renovated and is completely empty. Doing an entire house in one go can be incredibly disruptive.
About the author
This post was written by Matt Wilson on behalf of Walton Flooring Centre, a family run carpet and laminate floors business in Merseyside, with branches in Walton, Wavertree and Burscough.