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How does underfloor heating work?

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative Commons-licensed photograph by Martin Pettitt.

Whether you are buying your underfloor heating from a specialist such as The Underfloor Heating Store or picking up a budget kit from your local DIY store, all underfloor heating essentially works the same way; to ensure your home is free from cold spots, is heated efficiently and looks great because it eliminates the need for ugly radiators from your home.

Research, conducted in 2014 by Continental Underfloor, confirmed that 75% of installers believe underfloor heating will be key in 2015 as people look for alternatives to traditional systems. There are two underfloor heating solutions available, electric and wet. Both work by using either electricity or warm water to heat your floor evenly, throughout the room.

Electric underfloor heating is the simplest to install out of the two and usually consists of heating mats, packed with electric wires that heat up once connected to the mains electricity supply.

Electric underfloor heating is best for smaller rooms that might have awkward corners. The mats (which come in tile form or on a roll) are laid beneath your flooring (which could be tiles, vinyl, laminate or even carpet, if it is not too thick), then a layer of screed and floor insulation is placed on top before the actual floor is finally laid. You will need to call in an electrician to hook the heat mat system up to the mains electric supply and thermostat but you can do most of the work yourself.

Wet underfloor heating is a little more costly to install but cheaper to run than its electric counterpart. Wet underfloor heating works using plastic pipes, fitted beneath the floor, which are then heated using warm water from the central heating system and work better in larger spaces. These plastic pipes are carefully connected and laid in a sand and cement screed with flooring then laid on top.

Wet underfloor heating is a little trickier to install yourself and you will need a plumber to hook up the system to either your boiler or a heat pump, so we recommend that you hire a professional to install the system so there are no issues later. Paying for professional help at this point should prevent you running into issues later and compared with having to rip up the whole floor, will be much less costly.

Underfloor heating is much more energy efficient than a radiator central heating system, it acts essentially as a whole room radiator that runs constantly in the background (simply because it takes longer to warm up to its highest temperature) but requires a much lower boiler temperature to actually heat up the water. Most radiator systems require the water temperature to be around 80°C, whereas underfloor heating only needs the water to be 40°C - 65°C to achieve a floor temperature of between 23°C and 32°C!

Underfloor heating is the definition of luxury but is quickly becoming a popular and affordable alternative to traditional central heating systems and with energy efficiency, even temperature throughout the room and quick installation times it’s easy to see why.