The ins and outs of water based underfloor heating

“I don’t need to wear slippers”, says Mick Laverick of LeeMick Ltd., as he tells us about his house, which has water based underfloor heating fitted throughout. Today, however, we’re not in Mick’s toasty house and we definitely need to keep our shoes on. We’re on site in rural Kent, fitting underfloor heating in a barn conversion. The house, which currently lacks both windows and doors, can’t yet experience the benefit of even heated floors.

Underfloor heating is slowly gaining popularity, but is still viewed as a luxury in new-build homes. Mick, who have been fitting underfloor heating for 15 years, tells us about the advantages.

Underfloor heating vs radiators

First of all, it’s a matter of appearance. Decor-wise, radiators take up plenty of space and are also a nuisance. As much as 5% of floor space can be freed up if radiators are removed. In addition, period properties weren’t built for radiators, so for restoration projects underfloor heating is ideal as it’s easier to re-create the authentic look.

Where radiators emit heat unevenly in a room and heat you from the head down, making one area warmer than the other, underfloor heating works in the opposite way. The movement of warm air gently rises from the floor, which means that the heat is evenly distributed throughout the room. A comfortable temperature can be achieved throughout the room without any cold patches and the body is heated from the feet up.

underfloor heating pipes

Although it takes longer to heat up a room with underfloor heating than with a radiator from cold, it also takes longer to cool down. Therefore, a room that is kept at 21°C during occupancy can cool down to 18°C during the unoccupied times and be reheated quickly. As every room has a thermostat, the energy bills can be kept down by keeping unused rooms at a lower temperature than the rest.

Underfloor heating works with many floor finish materials, but the best heat-transmitting ones are tile or stone. Carpet being an insulator will hold the heat in, but will still give a good result. Engineered wood works fairly well, as does real wood, but the latter needs to be treated with respect as it was a living material that will move.

underfloor heating manifold

Cost of wet underfloor heating

A regular water-based underfloor heating system fitted in a new build on a screeded floor structure costs around £25-30 m2. However, for timber joists it’s considerably more. As aluminium sheets need to be fitted to reflect the heat, the system becomes quite expensive. 1 aluminium sheet costs around £10, which makes the project start at £40 m2.

Although all those arguments sound good, surely there are a few negative remarks too? One problem is that if not designed correctly the output may not be enough to heat the space or the electrics can be connected incorrectly, the wrong valves to the wrong thermostats if the correct tradesmen haven’t been informed about the underfloor heating  layout. Ultimately, this means that the wrong space will be heated up when different thermostats are switched on. To avoid it from happening, the electrician needs to be informed about the system’s set-up from a builder or the underfloor heating engineer.

floor insulation for underfloor heating

Should something go wrong with the system in general, it doesn’t mean you have to break up the entire floor. Engineers can check with an infra red camera where the problem lies and rectify it. Since underfloor heating has as many moving parts as a radiator system, it’s highly advisable to get a check-up once a year.

Sign for the barn

Churches and barn conversions with high ceilings, like the one we are visiting, are perfect for underfloor heating, Mick tell us. It’s also beneficial for asthmatics as dust doesn’t move around. However, don’t expect the floors to be very warm to the touch. Underfloor heating works its magic in silence; when a room is comfortably heated and you don’t even notice that it’s there, that’s when you know that you have a  well functioning underfloor heating system. Depending on the manufacture guarantee it might well continue for another 50 years.

Mick next to his van

If you want to install underfloor heating, post your job for free. Up to 3 quality, local underfloor heating specialists will get in touch.

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