Buying guide to underfloor heating

Considering an underfloor heating for your home might raise a lot of questions, we answer them here.

By Hannah Fenton | 28 February 2017

Considering an underfloor heating for your home might raise a lot of questions such as cost, installation time, what system to opt for, hydronic or electric and what type of flooring to lay over it and many more. This guide aims to provide some clarity to your questions.

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Can underfloor heating be installed both in new builds and renovations?

There are two types of underfloor heating systems; hydronic and electric floor heaters. Both systems are suitable for installation in new builds. The decisions which system to opt for is I.a. dependent on the available floor height. Hydronic (or wet) system consists of heating pipes that circulate warm water that emit radiant heat to the floor surface. The construction of the system including the pipes, raises the floor level more than an electric system. Water underfloor heating is also in most cases laid in the sub-floor construction when the floor is built. However there are new water systems available with thinner pipes such as Total 16 from Warmup that won’t raise the floor significantly due to its 16mm pipe. Total 16 can also be laid on top of a subfloor.

If you are considering renovating and including underfloor heating in your project, an electric system would be the recommended choice. Electric underfloor heating works by running electricity through a heating cable to produce heat. An electric system is laid on top of a subfloor, it is easy to install and increases floor levels by no more than a few millimetres. The best electric cables in the market are ultra-thin dual-fluoropolymer coated, multi-strand wires that are very durable and thin, and meet the highest safety standards. The installation is as easy as lifting the floor up, cleaning the subfloor properly from any clutter and dust.


What floor coverings can I use with an underfloor heating?

All floor types are compatible with underfloor heating. However there are floor surfaces that conduct heat from the system more efficiently than others. Tiles and stone have a high thermal conductivity, so they transfer heat quickly to the floor, making them the best type of flooring to use with underfloor heating.

Different types of wood and laminate differ a lot in their density and thickness and thus in their thermal conductivity. The denser and thinner the material is, the more efficiently it transfers heat and so the better option it is to go with underfloor heating. Engineered timber is especially good flooring material since it reacts well to changes in floor temperature.

Vinyl can also be safely considered with underfloor heating since it heats up and cools down quickly. Carpet is suited material too, however it needs to exceed no more than 2.5 tog for the system to provide sufficient heat output.

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How much does it cost?

There are a range of different systems available in the market. In principle, wet systems cost more to install but are very cheap to run. Therefore the installation cost is usually the most costly part. Electric systems again are easy and inexpensive to install but cost more to run. The cost of your underfloor heating will depend on the type of the heater and the size of the area you are looking to install it in.

Underfloor heating systems are very cost-efficient systems to run. They produce even radiant heat throughout the area and provide comfortable room temperature at lower heat than radiators. There are underfloor heating running cost calculators available to find out the running costs of your system.


What should I do about Installation?

A hydronic system conventionally comprises of various components including a boiler, manifold, mixing unit, actuators, pipework and a thermostat. As mentioned above, installation of a wet system usually takes place when building a new home, but it can also be carried out during a renovation by a qualified installer. Installation of electric floor heating systems is relatively straightforward and can for the most part be taken on by a competent DIY-er or experienced tradesman. However only a part P certified electrician should complete any electrical work including wiring and connecting the thermostat to the heating system. It is also important to closely follow the installation manual from the manufacturer.

It is also worthwhile considering the use of insulation boards in conjunction with your underfloor heating system. Find out more about insulation boards below.