Underfloor Heating: Is It Worth It?

Updated: Mar 16



Are you looking for a more environmentally friendly way to heat your home? Electric heating or underfloor heating are both greener options than traditional radiators. Underfloor heating can be a very efficient and effective way to heat your home. It is important to note, however, that it is not a “cheap” alternative (especially if retrofitted) and requires expertise to fit (with the possible exception of a dry system, see below). Underfloor heating can either be electric (known as a ‘dry’ system) or water-based (known as a ‘wet’ system). In general terms water based underfloor heating is more efficient than a water based radiator system and electric based underfloor heating is in general terms less efficient than a water based radiator system. A water based underfloor heating system is particularly well paired with a heat pump system as it requires lower temperature input water (water based solar may also be appropriate).

The increased efficiency of underfloor heating systems is due to the “whole floor radiator” effect. Heat is distributed evenly vertically and horizontally, bringing the advantage of warm floors and limited cold spots. Additionally, the removal of the need for radiators can create more space and may appeal to peoples sense of aesthetics. The lower operating temperature of the systems means that it will take longer to get up to temperature and that it will not be effective in a poorly insulated house. Modern underfloor heating can generally be used with all flooring types, but the flooring type may have an impact with, typically, carpet being least efficient and ceramics most efficient. It should not be laid under fixtures, due to issues of access.

Water-Based Underfloor Heating

Essentially a series of pipes linked to your hot water source is laid under the floor. For the most efficient supply of heat we recommend connecting the pipes to a heat pump based system. The pipes will be placed and clipped onto an insulation layer and then set in “screed” to hold them in place, provide further insulation and a flat surface on which to lay the floor. The pipes will be connected to your boiler via a manifold (multiple pipe circuits being the norm with one circuit per room) which has a mixing switch to lower water temperature as required and a pump. Generally, the system will run at between 27 and 31 degrees centigrade based on floor type and quality of insulation. Room temperature is controlled by a thermostat, and as mentioned we would recommend a timed/smart thermostat system. Design and installation should be done by an experienced supplier. If you are considering a retrofit system, it is important to realise that you will be unlikely to recoup the costs. Yet, we would still strongly recommend that new builds are fitted with underfloor heating as it is cheaper and easier to install at the start, can boost the value of a property and lead to lower running costs.

Electric-Based Underfloor Heating

In this case a network of wires is placed under the floor (loose fitting wiring, cables, or readymade mats, depending on the size and shape of the space). Again, insulation is required under the network to prevent heat going downwards. In this case a screed layer on top of the network may not be necessary depending on the floor type being used. System run at different power levels based on flooring types (above and below) and room size generally operating at between 25 and 31 centigrade. A thermostat control system completes the installation, and again we would recommend that this has a timer/smart capability. Again, individual circuits can be laid to allow room/zone temperature control. A DIY approach is possible although an electrician will be required to hook up the system safely to the household supply. Whilst less expensive to install they are typically more expensive to operate and normally only used in smaller/awkwardly shaped rooms.

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