Underfloor Heating Complete Guide
When it comes to heating your home and bathroom, there’s nothing as luxurious as underfloor heating.
Embraced by high-end hotels and home builders, underfloor heating takes away that shock of stepping out of a shower onto a cold stone floor. You may think it’s reserved to just those with a lot of money to spend, but that’s no longer the case.
Plumbworld is here to explain all things underfloor heating. From the types of underfloor heating to its benefits, costs, and the considerations when buying. It’s your complete buying guide for underfloor heating.
Read on to find out more about underfloor heating for your home…
What is underfloor heating?
Underfloor heating involves installing pipes in your flooring, so that the whole floor acts like a radiator tipped on its side, warming the room from the ground up.
Read more: Underfloor Heating Tips and Checks
Underfloor heating uses the principle of waves of heat rising through the air - radiation. Underfloor heating can be either a “wet system” or “dry system”. These systems are based on what is passed through the piping under your floors, water or electricity.
What are the types of underfloor heating systems?
As we’ve mentioned above, there are two types of underfloor heating systems - wet and dry. They are called these based on what is passed through and used to heat the system, water or electricity - like radiators.
Wet System Underfloor Heating
Wet underfloor heating systems feature a network of pipes linked directly to your boiler that pump hot water around the room.
Underfloor heating systems distribute heat much more evenly than radiators, so they will use water at a lower heat than traditional radiators. This means that your boiler will be more efficient as a result.
Compared to a dry system, which we’ll come on to, the main difficulty with wet systems is around installation. Costs are often higher for this reason; as pipes are thicker than electrical wires, there needs to be enough room for the system to be installed. This means the ground or flooring may need to be slightly raised.
Note: This makes wet systems ideal for new builds. Retrofitting a wet system is not easy and shouldn’t be installed without assistance.
Dry System Underfloor Heating
Dry underfloor heating systems use a network of wires under the floor that warm up evenly.
Depending on the shape of the room you want to install a dry system in, you can opt for heating mats, which cover large areas, or individual wires. Individual wires can be bent and used to get into tighter spaces. Heating mats are often cheaper as they are a uniform size.
Wires for a dry system usually sit on top of a layer of insulation and can fit under different floor types. The electric wires themselves are thin which makes them easier and cheaper to install than a wet system. However, because they use electricity, they can be more expensive to run. This makes them more suited to smaller areas.
How does underfloor heating work?
As mentioned above with each system, underfloor heating works by pumping warm water or passing an electric current through pipes or wiring. This then heats up to provide even heating to an entire space. They provide an ambient heat at a lower operating temperature than radiators, making them more efficient. They heat the floor and room through rising air.
- Wet systems: warm water from your boiler pumped through pipes
- Dry systems: electricity directed from your mains supply
Is underfloor heating worth it? What are the benefits?
There are various reasons why you should consider installing underfloor heating in your home, from efficient heating to increasing your home’s value. So, we’ve outlined some key benefits below.
Warm underfloor heating gives a more comfortable warmth and ambient temperature than radiators because it feels natural. While radiators heat the air by convection - drawing cold air across the floor and up - underfloor heating produces radiant warmth, like the sun. The entire floor is heated so heat is released evenly. Plus, you get a nice warm floor.
Once installed, underfloor heating is very efficient, almost 25% more so than radiators. Underfloor heating uses lower temperatures and covers a much larger surface area of the room - your entire floor. If installed correctly, underfloor heating can help to save energy and money on your monthly energy bills.
Underfloor heating helps your decor by freeing up wall and floor space because you no longer need radiators. Because the system is “invisible”, you have greater interior design freedom, making it ideal for open-plan living.
Which flooring does underfloor heating work with?
Underfloor heating can be laid under most types of flooring, so long as they are suitable with the heating system. You may need to consult the manufacturer about this. We’ve outlined everything below.
Stone & Ceramic Flooring
Tile and stone floor finishes are perfect for electric underfloor heating because they have a high thermal mass and high thermal conductivity. This means the heat transfers to the floor surface quickly and retains the heat well. This creates an ideal perfect spread of warmth.
Tip: A layer of insulation should always be included. This will minimize downward heat loss and maximize efficiency of electric underfloor heating.
Vinyl flooring performs extremely well with underfloor heating and is increasingly popular. Most vinyl brands are now manufactured to be compatible but you should always check with your manufacturer to be sure. Vinyl floors can have a top floor temperature restriction which will limit the system’s heat output, so they are not recommended for high heat loss areas.
Engineered timber flooring is the ideal wooden floor option to use with underfloor heating because it performs with fluctuating temperatures. Timber flooring will often insulate and therefore reduce the efficiency of the heating system. The thinner profile of engineered timber is best but you should always ask your manufacturer.
Can you install underfloor heating with carpets?
Yes, you can install underfloor heating in a room with carpet flooring. Carpet is suitable, as long as the material of the carpet or underlay does not act as an insulator, blocking the heat from the underfloor heating system. The total tog of all materials must not exceed 1.5.
How to lay underfloor heating
This all comes down to which system you are installing - wet or dry.
For the wet system - one that links into your central heating - it is as follows:
- Pull up the floor - if installing a new floor on top, skip this step
- Lay the pipes - there should be a guide to ensure the pipes aren’t laid upside down. Ensure pipes are spaced evenly so that heat is distributed evenly
- Cover the underfloor heating with screed - a cement-like mixture - that helps with insulation and for heat to be generated quicker. Ensure pipes are secured in place to avoid cracks. Screed must be allowed to dry naturally.
For a dry electric underfloor system, such as those from Warmup, this video explains the installation process:
How much does underfloor heating cost?
The cost of underfloor heating is, naturally, higher when it comes to installation and fitting when compared to standard radiators.
Underfloor heating costs vary greatly; they can start as low as £30 for small projects right up to £10,000 for large projects. The cost will depend on key factors, such as the system you choose, size of the room floor space and the age of your home.
How much is underfloor heating per sqm?
Typically, the cost of underfloor heating per m² is around £50 - £75, when using electric heat mats. For example, the system Plumbworld sells, Warmup’s Loose Wire System, in a 4m² bathroom, with accompanying insulation and thermostat, is around £470 + VAT.
How much is it to install electric underfloor heating?
The average labour costs for installing underfloor heating is between £200 - £300 per day. Most electric systems can be installed in one to two days, so should cost from £400 - £600.
Is underfloor heating expensive to run?
Compared to traditional radiators, underfloor heating is one of the cheaper heating solutions for running costs as it requires lower temperatures married with equal heat distribution.
Is underfloor heating efficient?
Underfloor heating is extremely efficient when compared to alternative heating solutions, such as radiators. It uses lower temperatures but results in even heat distribution.
If you're looking for more information on underfloor heating, or heating in general, take a look at the following posts - Underfloor Heating Tips & Checks - Is Underfloor Bathroom Heating an Affordable Luxury? - A Guide to Bathroom Heating.
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