Why choose underfloor heating?
Ask any homeowner who has underfloor heating, and chances are they’ll say they’d never be without it! But why? Well one good reason is that, with underfloor heating installed, there’s no need for radiators. Aside from spoiling the clean lines of a room, radiators can take up valuable wall space. Remove them, and suddenly a gap appears for extra kitchen units, storage, a sofa or even a doorway.
Underfloor heating is also an extremely cost effective way to warm a room, so it will help you cut your fuel bills. Plus, unlike radiators, stoves or traditional solid-fuel fires, it provides the ultimate comfort levels by distributing heat evenly and gently. There are no cold spots and, as most of the heat is concentrated in the lower part of the room, very little heat is wasted.
If you’re planning on renovating your kitchen, there are even more reasons to choose underfloor heating. UFH runs on an independent thermostat, so if your cooker is generating a lot of heat, it’s possible to turn the heating off in the kitchen but keep it on across the rest of the house. As for cleaning, underfloor heating is a dream. Eliminating radiators means one less surface in the kitchen to attract grease and gather dust, and underfloor heating also results in less air movement. Less air movement equals less dust movement, making UFH more hygienic, especially ideal for allergy sufferers.
Know your types of underfloor heating – wet versus dry systems
There are two kinds of underfloor heating – electric or ‘dry’ systems and water-based or ‘wet’ systems .
Electric systems are more a ordable and less disruptive to install, but their running costs are higher, so they are best suited to smaller spaces such as tiled bathrooms, or spots that are awkward to get to.
Hot-water (or wet) systems
Wet systems are made up of pipes that are typically connected to your boiler, and use warm water from the central heating system. While a condensing boiler will offer the greatest potential savings on running costs, any boiler can be used with UFH, as long as it has a sufficient capacity.
The water is pumped through plastic pipes that are laid on to a sub floor, before the new final surface is installed. Most of the plastic water pipes installed in today’s systems are continuous, so there is no danger of leaks as there are no joints – and the system is generally considered to be maintenance-free.
By nature, they are more costly and disruptive to install (especially if a floor-level alteration is needed to accommodate the pipes). However, they are the most cost effective solution. Underfloor heating of this type also reduces water-heating costs as it uses water at a lower temperature than standard radiators (about 40°C to 65°C to give a floor temperature of between 23°C and 32°C).
If you’re looking to heat a large area, this is the best option.
Electric mat (or dry) systems
Dry UFH is available in the form of basic heating cables, sometimes loosely woven into mesh mats, flat or ribbon cables, or heating films. The mats or rolls are spread out, connected together and are then linked up to the thermostat and mains power supply. Your flooring is then laid on top.
There are three types of dry UFH available: Loose wire is suitable for stone or tile floors and ideal for irregular- shaped rooms with awkward corners or obstacles. Matting is good for stone or tile floors, too, and large or more regular-shaped rooms. A foil mat system is designed specifically for laminate flooring.
In general, electric systems are cheaper to install, and cause less disruption to existing floor structure. They also allow the room to reach the required temperature faster than the wet varieties because they are direct heat sources. On the downside, they are more expensive to run than wet systems, which are more cost efficient.
Where to use underfloor heating
Underfloor heating is mostly used in ground-floor rooms but, in reality, there is a system to suit any type of floor construction. Wet systems are most easily installed where it’s possible to take up floors or where new floors are being constructed, so is likely to suit new extensions, conservatories and new open-plan kitchen-cum-living areas.
Electric underfloor heating is likely to be more suitable for existing rooms as the electrical mesh system is flatter than a wet system so there is less need for floor heights to be altered to accommodate it. There are even electrical mat systems available that can be used under rugs on existing hard floors. On balance, it’s easier to add electric systems to upper-floor rooms.
How much does it cost to install and run underfloor heating?
Installing a wet UFH system throughout a new build would cost around £5,000 all-in, but for an existing property, it depends on the size of the room and how much floor lifting is required. For just the system, a wet version will cost £20-£30 per sq m excluding fitting.
Either way, that’s significantly more expensive to fit than a dry UFH system. The good news, however, is that once installed, wet UFH can be 30 per cent more efficient than traditional radiators and far more economical to use. It’s also significantly cheaper to actually run than dry UFH.
An electric system makes economic sense if fitting it in one room. Prices for roll-out UFH mats start from around £75 per sq m, or a loose-fit kit from around £100 per sq m, plus insulation board and electrician’s charges. However, while electric UFH is cheaper to install than a wet system, it may also be anything up to 40 per cent more expensive to run.