Underfloor heating – is it for you?

Underfloor heating is increasing in popularity for both comfort and energy efficiency reasons and there are a variety of systems available for you to choose from. It offers a solution that will help you to save on your energy bills and enjoy a comfortable room temperature when desired. In this article we outline everything you need to know to help you decide if it’s suitable for your home.

How it works – underfloor heating explained

Underfloor heating works by producing radiant heat. The system turns the entire floor into a giant radiating surface, heating the room with no cold spots. Unlike radiators, it doesn’t create air flows (which the radiators use to operate) and there is minimal air movement keeping the indoor climate healthy.

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Underfloor heating systems

There are two types of systems available and their suitability depends largely on your project type and heat source:

  • Electric underfloor heating system – uses electricity to power the very thin wire installed under the floor level which produces heat. Electric systems are best suited to retrofits and renovations as they do not raise the floor level. Water systems are fitted to the structural sub-floor and screeded over which means that there is an increase in floor height, making them best suited to new developments or refurbishments.
  • Water underfloor heating system – utilises warm water that circulates in underfloor heating pipes providing heat. The wet system is connected to a boiler or another heat source, which heats up the water that circulates in the pipes. You should always check that your heat source, such as your boiler, is capable to be used with an underfloor heating system. Have a read of the ins and outs of water based underfloor heating for more information.

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Underfloor heating installation

Installed under the floor finish, both systems are invisible giving complete design freedom. The water underfloor heating system is designed to be fitted on top of an existing sub-floor. It involves laying a pipe in a regular pattern with suitable intervals to provide even heat distribution. Screed is applied after laying the pipe to embed it, after which the final floor cover is laid down.

Electric systems are installed to the sub-floor by laying down either underfloor heating loose wire or a mat with pre-spaced wire. Only flexible tile adhesive is needed on top and there is no need to screed over the wire. The final floor finish is applied after the tile adhesive has dried.

Both systems are suitable for a variety of floor finishes including carpet, tile and natural stone, wood, laminate and vinyl flooring. The detailed installation instructions vary, so you should always check the manufacture’s installation manual for installation advice. If you have a question about your flooring, head to our Ask an expert section where you can ask registered flooring specialists for advice.

Cost of underfloor heating

The running cost is low due to the energy efficiency of the system and room size, how long the system is on and the insulation levels are the main factors affecting the cost. Warmup has conducted underfloor running cost tests in their EN442-2 research centre in Germany to give a good estimate on the average running costs for the system. The cost of heating a 4m² bathroom is £22.25 for the entire winter period, or for 183 days a year. This is based on the system being on for two hours in the morning and an hour in the evening. A 5m² kitchen costs £27.81 to heat (when the system is on for an hour in the morning and two hours in the evening). For the same period, a 15m² living room costs £78.19 to heat, when the system is on for three hours in the evening. The radiant heat warms up a room evenly with no need for overheating and wasting energy to compensate for cold spots. The system uses little energy to reach and maintain a desired temperature and the controllability of the system means that you can tailor your heating around your lifestyle, reducing your utility bills.

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How it’s controlled

Underfloor heating systems are  controlled via a thermostat. The thermostat can either be very basic with only on and off functions or an advanced, programmable energy-monitor thermostat. The latter allows you to programme your heating settings by different areas and only have the heating on when you want it and where you want it. The energy-monitor function also shows you the exact running costs of your heating system, helping you to budget and programme the most energy efficient heating settings.

Wanting to install underfloor heating? Post a job for free and get in touch with up to three local flooring specialists.

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