Underfloor heating uses the basic principle of rising heat and can be either a wet system that pumps warm water through pipes under the floor, or a dry system of electric coils placed under the floor.
Electric underfloor heating
Electric underfloor heating uses a network of wires under each floor that heat up. The wires usually sit on a top layer of insulation and fit under different hard floor types and carpet – subject to thickness. Depending on the size and shape of the room and how well it is insulated you can opt for either heating mats, which cover large areas, or individual wires which can get in small spaces. Heating mats are generally a cheaper alternative.
The electric wires themselves are fairly thin, making them easier and cheaper to install than a water-based system, but they are also slightly pricier to run, making them better suited to smaller areas.
Theoretically a competent DIY enthusiast can install the electric heating sheets or cables, but a qualified electrician will be required to connect the system to the electric mains supply and fit a sensor that connects to the thermostat.
Water underfloor heating
Water-based systems use a network of pipes linked to the boiler that pump hot water around the pipes. The pipes are thicker than wires and so require more room under the floor for the system to be installed, or the floor may need to be slightly raised. This means they provide a good solution for new builds, but they can be more difficult to install in existing properties.
The Energy Saving Trust says water underfloor heating is typically more energy efficient than radiators and therefore less expensive to run. This is because the heat emitted from an underfloor system is more evenly distributed than a single radiator, and so the system can use water at a lower temperature.
Water-based systems cost more than electric-based underfloor systems and shouldn’t be installed without professional assistance.
Advantages of underfloor heating
- It can be an efficient way to heat the whole of a room compared to radiators which heat more of an isolated area
- It is hidden away out of view and frees up walls as there are no radiators
- It is a flexible heating option that can be fitted in a single room or in every room
Disadvantages of underfloor heating
- It can take longer to heat up compared to radiators as underfloor heating works at a lower temperature
- It can cost more to install underfloor heating and consequently is more suited to new builds
- In some cases, such as with smaller systems, it won't be able to completely replace radiators
You'll need to consider whether you want an electric or water system, the number and type of rooms you want it installed in, the size of each room and whether you want to get rid of the radiators in the room(s) where it is to be installed.
If you are going to instruct a professional and qualified tradesman, it is always advisable to obtain a minimum of three detailed quotations in order to provide a comparison and judgement of cost. You can source a qualified APHC Quality Plumber here.