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.
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.
Will underfloor heating be sufficient enough to heat my room?
Before considering buying an underfloor heating system you should always first conduct a heat loss calculation in your dwelling to make sure that the heat output of the system is greater than the heat loss in your home. In simple terms this means that if your home is not insulated well enough and it lets heat to escape, your heating system will A) not run energy-efficiently and B) the heat output of the heating system may not provide enough heat to maintain desired level of temperature. Underfloor heating systems come in different heat outputs with lower wattage for areas with minimum heat loss and higher wattage for areas like conservatories where the heat loss is higher as well. Heat loss calculations are conducted by architects and heating engineers. Make sure to also ask them to help you to choose the correct heat output for your heating system.
In case your home is not sufficiently insulated it is highly recommended that you use insulation boards. Insulation boards are laid down on the subfloor, underneath the heater to prevent the heat from escaping downwards to the subfloor. Insulation boards push the heat up to the floor level, shortening the heat-up time.
Can I live in the house whilst underfloor heating is being installed
The specification of your project will dictate how long the installation of your heater will take; the size of the heating area, type of your underfloor heating system and so on. If you are to install underfloor heating in a 3 sqM bathroom, a fast to install electric underfloor heating mat such as DCM-PRO Heated Decoupling Mat is the most cost-efficient solution saving both time and cost. A bathroom or a kitchen does not take longer than a day to install underfloor heating. However, the flexible tile adhesive used below or above your system can take multiple days to dry. Hydronic systems are more laborious to install costing more and taking a few days. Water pipes are also usually used for larger areas expanding the time of the installation. Depending on the hydronic system, screed might be used on top of the pipes and the rule of thumb is that 1mm of screed takes 1 day to dry. This can mean that installation of a wet system might take up to 2 months. One thing you must avoid at all costs is turning on your underfloor heating as a means of drying the flexible tile adhesive, as this can create air-pockets and cracks in the tile adhesive, which will inevitably damage your floor surface in the long run.
Warranties and Guarantees
Underfloor heating is a highly reliable heating system safely hidden under the floor covers. The key for it to work flawlessly for years to come is dependent on the correct installation of the system. Ensure that the installer carrying out the work is qualified and follows step-by-step installation guidelines from the manufacturer. All systems are different and therefore have different instructions for their installation.
For your peace of mind - opt for underfloor heating manufacturers who cover your system with appropriate lifetime guarantees and warranties.
Some companies such as Warmup even offer a Safety Net™ Installation Guarantee on all their electric systems and hydronic underfloor heating pipes. Should something go wrong during the installation, the damaged system will be replaced with a new one, free of charge.