It feels like summer might have finally arrived, but memories of a long cold winter and being afraid to turn on the heating are still fresh. The British winter never gets any shorter, and with the cost of heating our homes these days, everyone’s looking for the right balance of comfort and affordability to keep warm.
Underfloor heating has always seemed like a luxury, but is it really just for the well-off or could it be an option for anyone already planning to remodel their home or even just a couple of rooms? As usual, there are pros and cons so let’s explore a few.
What is underfloor heating?
Underfloor heating is a method of heating a room by installing a heating system beneath the floor surface and radiating heat upwards from the floor. Because it’s ‘invisible’ it’s often seen as a contemporary and elegant solution that provides comfort during cold seasons while offering a sleek and minimalist aesthetic, ie no radiators.
There are two primary types of underfloor heating system:
- Electric: this system consists of a network of electric cables or heating mats that are installed underneath the floor. The cables or mats are connected to a thermostat, which allows you to control the temperature. When the system is turned on, the electric current passes through the cables, generating heat that warms the floor and the surrounding space.
- Water-based Underfloor Heating: also known as hydronic underfloor heating, this system uses a network of pipes that circulate warm water beneath the floor. A boiler or heat pump heats the water, which is then pumped through the pipes. The warm water transfers its heat to the floor, and the heat is radiated upwards into the room. Water-based systems are usually connected to a thermostat or a central heating system for temperature control.
The specific pros and cons will vary depending on which one you choose, but let’s talk about generic pluses and minuses.
- Comfort: underfloor heating provides a more even distribution of heat compared to traditional radiators. It radiates heat from the floor upwards, creating a cozy and comfortable environment throughout the room.
- Energy efficiency: underfloor heating systems can be more energy-efficient than radiators because they can operate at lower water temperatures. This can lead to lower energy consumption and reduced heating costs.
- Space-saving: no need for radiators or other bulky heating systems, allowing for more flexibility in room design and furniture placement.
- Silent operation: underfloor heating systems operate silently, without the noise associated with forced-air systems or radiators, which you won’t appreciate until you’ve experienced it!
- Allergy-friendly: unlike radiators, underfloor heating doesn’t circulate air, reducing the movement of dust particles and allergens.
- Installation cost: the initial installation cost of underfloor heating can be higher compared to traditional heating systems like radiators. Not just materials but labour plus adjustments to the flooring.
- Installation complexity: retrofitting underfloor heating in an existing structure can be challenging and may require adjustments to the subfloor. This can make the installation process more complex, time-consuming, and potentially disruptive.
- Heat-up time: underfloor heating systems generally have a slower heat-up time compared to radiators. It may take some time for the floor to reach the desired temperature, so it needs some pre-planning and programming the system.
- Limited control: underfloor heating systems typically have a slower response time to temperature adjustments. If you frequently change temperature settings or require rapid adjustments, this may not suit you.
- Compatibility with flooring: certain types of flooring, such as thick carpets or some types of wood, may not be suitable for use with underfloor heating. It’s important to ensure compatibility and check manufacturer guidelines before installation.
The Energy Saving Trust is a valuable source of independent advice, and you should always consult with a professional installer or heating engineer for more accurate information and guidance based on your specific requirements and circumstances.
Check out this article about making our home more energy efficient