What is underfloor heating, and should you install it in your home?

Nov 18, 2022 | News

Underfloor heating has become increasingly popular in home renovations in recent years as it provides a more luxurious experience and uses less energy than heating a property with traditional radiators. It is particularly sought-after in bathrooms, but it can also be a great way to heat other rooms, including kitchens and bedrooms.

How does underfloor heating work?

Underfloor heating or UFH consists of a system of pipes or sheets of heating wires placed beneath the floor, from which heat radiates upwards to heat the room. This contrasts with radiators, which are quite inefficient and mostly heat rooms through convection, with cooler air at floor level and much of the warm air trapped up at the ceiling.

What types of underfloor heating are available?

Underfloor heating systems generally fit into two camps: electric underfloor heating known as a “dry” system, and hydronic or water-based underfloor heating that is called a “wet” system.

Dry (electric) underfloor heating

Electric UFH is generally cheaper and easier to install, especially when retrofitting a property, as it does not involve any plumbing, with sheets of ultrathin heating wires used instead. However, despite these upfront savings, dry UFH is more expensive to operate and as such, will cost you more in the long run than a wet system of underfloor heating.

Wet underfloor heating

Wet UFH consists of a circuit of pipes beneath the floor through which warm water is pumped to heat a room. This pipework can still be very thin, with some companies offering circuits that are only 15mm thick, and so a wet UFH system does not have to impact floor heights and can be installed on top of existing flooring. The pipework of a wet system is more difficult and expensive to install than an electric system, but in general it should be more reliable in the long term and provide improved energy efficiency.

Which rooms benefit most from underfloor heating?

Bathrooms are the most popular rooms to install underfloor heating, as they are one of the few rooms where people walk barefoot on hard floors and so will most enjoy the comfort of warmth underfoot. However, UFH systems also work similarly well to heat kitchens and utility rooms, where the flooring is similarly hard and cold but can also work well in other rooms with carpeted floors.

If you are renovating your entire property or developing a new build, then it would be worth considering adding wet underfloor heating to every room in the house. The installation of UFH throughout the property will mean you will use less energy than a traditional system of central heating, and without radiators, you have far more flexibility for furniture positioning and interior design.

Does underfloor heating work with all flooring types?

Underfloor heating works well with wood, tiles, or stone flooring, as well carpets and various types of laminate and vinyl. However, with so many types of laminate and vinyl flooring available on the market, it is always best to check if they work with UFH in advance to avoid warping or other issues.

Stone or ceramic tiles offer the best heat transfer as they are the most thermally conductive, so tend to be the most widely recommended options if you are putting in a new bathroom or kitchen with underfloor heating. However, modern engineered wood can offer nearly as good conductive properties.

Is underfloor heating energy efficient?

As underfloor heating provides warmth mostly through radiation rather than convection, the system can be up to 40 per cent more energy efficient than using radiators. In a UFH system, the pipes or heating wires under the floor only need to reach temperatures of around 45°C to heat a room, in contrast with radiators which sometimes reach temperatures of up to 80°C!

To maximise energy efficiency, wet UFH should be combined with insulated underlay and insulation boards, particularly in rooms with suspended timber floors, so that the heat will warm the room and not be lost downwards. Add to this a smart thermostat, and you can obtain significant savings on your energy bills.

UFH will heat a room more slowly than traditional radiators, as you are heating the house and not just the air. However, the upside of this is that your property will also retain this heat for longer after you switch the heating off, something that is most notable in kitchens and other rooms where you can bury the UFH in the slab that, once heated, in effect becomes a large radiator itself.

Will underfloor heating help prevent damp?

Underfloor heating will more evenly distribute heat around a room and help prevent cold patches or draughts, with the whole room warmed more efficiently. However, the key to avoiding damp is good ventilation. In bathrooms, this means that you should have an extractor fan and make an effort to open the windows and doors after a shower, and dehumidifiers can be useful in other rooms where there is significant moisture in the air. No matter how well your home is warmed, if you do not have sufficient ventilation, then damp could still be an issue.

Is underfloor heating expensive?

The cost to install underfloor heating varies considerably depending on the construction of your bathroom and the type of UFH you would like to add. However, as using UFH rather than radiators to heat a room is significantly more energy efficient, it will help you bring down your monthly energy bills.

If you are looking into renovating your bathroom, then underfloor heating could be a great addition to the room, adding comfort and improving energy efficiency at the same time. Call Good London Builders today to discuss the best option to heat your new bathroom.

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