What is Underfloor Heating? Everything You Need to Know

If you're in the process of building a new house or even reconstructing or renovating your previous one, you must have come across a number of options for everything from the roof to the kitchen cabinets. In fact, the variety of options can be overwhelming at times.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the choices you make today will have a lasting impact on your living space and affect you for years to come. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that you take your time to think about and research all the possible options before making a decision.

When it comes to the floors of your new house, you may have come across the option of underfloor heating. In theory, the concept may feel too intimidating. However, it can be a valuable investment in your home if you choose to go with it.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about underfloor heating.

What is Underfloor Heating?

Underfloor heating is a type of heating system that is becoming increasingly popular in both residential and commercial buildings. As the name suggests, it involves installing heating elements or pipes beneath the floor to create a warm and comfortable environment. This method of heating has been used for centuries, but it has recently gained popularity due to its energy efficiency and design flexibility.

Underfloor heating is known for being energy-efficient, as it can be more efficient to heat a space from the floor up rather than from the ceiling down. This system can be installed in both new and existing buildings and can be used with a variety of flooring types, including tile, hardwood, and carpet. 

How Does Underfloor Heating Work

Underfloor heating circulates warm air through electric mats or a network of pipes or cables installed beneath the floor. The system is typically installed during construction or renovation, although it is possible to retrofit an existing building with an underfloor heating system.

What Types of Underfloor Heating Are There?

Underfloor heating systems come in two main types: water-based and electric.

  • Water-Based Underfloor Heating Systems: Also known as hydronic systems, water-based underfloor heating systems circulate warm water through a network of pipes installed beneath the floor. The water is heated by a boiler or heat pump and then circulated through the pipes by a pump. Water-based systems are typically installed during construction or renovation and require a certain amount of space beneath the floor for the installation of the pipes.
  • Electric Underfloor Heating Systems: On the other hand, electric underfloor heating systems use heating cables or mats that are installed beneath the floor. The cables or mats are connected to an electrical supply and controlled by a thermostat. Electric systems are typically easier and less expensive to install than water-based systems, but they can be more expensive to operate over the long term.

Within each of these two main types of underfloor heating systems, there are a few different variations. For example, water-based systems can be installed using either a "wet" or "dry" installation method. In a wet installation, the pipes are embedded in a layer of screed, while in a dry installation, the pipes are attached to insulation panels and covered with a layer of screed.

Electric underfloor heating systems can be installed using either a heating cable or a heating mat. Heating cables are flexible and can be installed in a variety of patterns to provide even heating. Heating mats are pre-fabricated and come in standard sizes, making them quicker and easier to install.

 

Ultimately, the choice between a water-based or electric underfloor heating system will depend on a variety of factors, including the specific requirements of the building, the desired level of energy efficiency, and the budget. A qualified installer or contractor can help determine which type of system is best suited to a particular project.

How Is Underfloor Heating Installed

The installation of underfloor heating depends on the type of system being installed but generally involves the following steps:

  • Planning: The first step is to determine the requirements for the underfloor heating system. This includes calculating the heat output required to heat the space, selecting the appropriate type of system, and determining the layout of the heating elements.
  • Preparation: The area where the underfloor heating is to be installed must be cleared of any obstructions and prepared for installation. This may involve removing existing flooring, levelling the subfloor, and installing insulation to improve energy efficiency.
  • Installation: The underfloor heating system is installed according to the planned layout. In a water-based system, this involves laying pipes or mats in the correct pattern and connecting them to the boiler or heat pump. In an electric system, heating cables or mats are laid out in a specific pattern and connected to the electrical supply.
  • Testing: Once the heating system is installed, it must be tested to ensure that it is working properly. This involves checking for leaks in the water-based system and verifying that the electrical connections in the electric system are secure.
  • Flooring: After the underfloor heating system has been installed and tested, the final step is to lay the finished flooring. This can be any type of flooring, such as tile, hardwood, or carpet.

It is important to note that the installation of underfloor heating should be carried out by a qualified professional to ensure that it is installed safely and correctly. A qualified installer can also help determine the specific requirements for a particular project and recommend the most suitable type of underfloor heating system.

What Is the Cost of Underfloor Heating?

The cost of underfloor heating varies depending on several factors, including the type of system, the size of the space being heated, and the specific requirements of the project. In general, underfloor heating systems are more expensive to install than traditional heating systems, but they offer improved energy efficiency and comfort.

According to estimates from Homebuilding & Renovating, the average cost of installing underfloor heating in the UK starts from around £25/m2 and can go up to £90/m2 to install, depending on various factors. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere around £50 to £70/m2. This includes the cost of materials, installation, and any necessary labour.

However, it's important to note that the actual cost can vary widely depending on the specific requirements of the project. Factors such as the complexity of the installation, the type of flooring being used, and any necessary upgrades to the building's insulation can all affect the cost.

It's recommended to obtain quotes from several qualified installers to get a more accurate estimate of the cost of underfloor heating for a particular project. Additionally, it's important to consider the long-term energy savings and increased comfort provided by underfloor heating when comparing the cost to other heating options.

Can I Install Underfloor Heating into My Existing Home

As discussed earlier, it is possible to install underfloor heating in an existing home, but there are several factors that need to be considered before proceeding with the installation.

  • Floor Structure: Underfloor heating requires a certain amount of space in the floor structure to accommodate the heating elements. If the floor structure is not suitable, it may need to be modified to allow for the installation of underfloor heating.
  • Insulation: This heating system works best when installed over a well-insulated subfloor. If the existing subfloor is not well-insulated, additional insulation may need to be added before the underfloor heating system can be installed.
  • Height: Underfloor heating can raise the height of the finished floor, which may be an issue if there are height restrictions or if the finished floor needs to be flush with existing floors in adjacent rooms.
  • Boiler or Heat Pump: In a water-based system, the underfloor heating system needs to be connected to a boiler or heat pump. If the existing system is not compatible or does not have sufficient capacity to accommodate the underfloor heating system, a new boiler or heat pump may need to be installed.
  • Type of Flooring: Different types of flooring have different thermal properties, which can affect the performance of underfloor heating. It's important to select a flooring material that is compatible with underfloor heating and to ensure that the heating system is installed correctly for that particular flooring material.

It's recommended to consult with a qualified professional to determine the feasibility of installing underfloor heating in an existing home and to determine the specific requirements for the project. A qualified professional can also provide advice on the most suitable type of underfloor heating system for a particular home and can ensure that the system is installed safely and correctly.

Is Underfloor Heating Better Than Radiators

Another option you may have considered to keep your house warm is radiators. Whether underfloor heating or radiators are better depends on a variety of factors, such as the specific requirements of the space being heated, the cost of installation and operation, and personal preferences.

Here are some advantages of underfloor heating compared to radiators:

  • Improved Comfort: Underfloor heating provides more even and consistent heat distribution throughout a room compared to radiators, which can create hot and cold spots. This can lead to a more comfortable living environment and fewer drafts.
  • More Space: Underfloor heating is installed beneath the floor, which means it doesn't take up any wall space. This can be an advantage if you want to maximize the use of your walls for windows or furniture.
  • Energy Efficiency: Underfloor heating can be more energy-efficient than radiators, especially if the system is designed and installed correctly. This is because the system operates at a lower temperature, which means it requires less energy to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  • Aesthetics: Radiators can be bulky and unattractive, while underfloor heating is hidden from view. This can be an advantage if you want to maintain a minimalist aesthetic or prefer not to have visible heating units.

However, there are also some disadvantages to underfloor heating compared to radiators, such as:

  • Longer Heating Times: Because the system operates at a lower temperature, it can take longer for underfloor heating to warm up a room compared to radiators.
  • Difficulties with Repairs: If there is a problem with the underfloor heating system, it can be difficult to locate and repair the issue, as the system is hidden beneath the floor.

Ultimately, the decision between underfloor heating and radiators will depend on the specific requirements of your space, your personal preferences, and your budget. It's important to consider all of the factors involved and to consult with a qualified professional to ensure that the system is designed and installed correctly.

Is Underfloor Heating More Expensive Than Radiators

Another major factor that you need to consider when choosing between underfloor heating and radiators is the installation cost as well as the long-term upkeep. The cost of underfloor heating versus radiators depends on various factors, such as the size of the space being heated, the type of system, and the installation costs. Generally, underfloor heating systems are more expensive to install than radiators due to the additional installation work required.

However, underfloor heating can be more cost-effective to operate than radiators in some cases. This is because underfloor heating operates at a lower temperature, which means it requires less energy to maintain a comfortable temperature. In contrast, radiators operate at a higher temperature and can create hot and cold spots, which can lead to energy waste and higher energy bills.

Another factor to consider is the lifespan of the heating system. Underfloor heating systems typically have a longer lifespan than radiators, which means that they may be a better long-term investment despite the higher installation costs.

Ultimately, the decision between underfloor heating and radiators will depend on the specific requirements of your space, your personal preferences, and your budget.

Conclusion

Overall, underfloor heating is a popular and effective method of heating that offers many benefits, including energy efficiency, design flexibility, and even heating throughout a room. So if you’re building a new home, you should certainly look into the option of underfloor heating.

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