Table of Contents
- 1 Running Costs to Consider
- 2 The Different Types of Underfloor Heating
- 3 Wet (Hot Water) Systems
- 4 Where Would You Install UFH?
- 5 How to install underfloor heating
- 6 Conclusion
The costs for an underfloor heating system in the home can really be variable, depending on factors such as the size of the property, the level of disruptive work required (if it’s an older, existing property), the extent to which it will be installed across the property and the type of system you opt for.
Not to mention the fact that costs for material and labour will vary dependent on the area of the country that you live in.
All that being said, if you were to install a complete wet underfloor system throughout a standard sized new build house, you might expect to pay in the region of £5,000 – £7,000.
Retrofitting into an existing property will really depend on how much additional work is involved.
For an electric system, roll-out mesh mats starting from around £75 per square metre, or £100 per square metre for a loose-cable unit. You will also need to factor in insulation boards and other cost such as electrician fees.
This makes it considerably less expensive to install than a wet system. However, don’t necessarily be wooed by that notion, because in the long-term this is often not the most effective direction to take.
Running Costs to Consider
Wet systems are a lot more cost and energy efficient and will typically prove to offer up to 30 per cent greater efficiency than traditional radiators and a considerably lower running costs than the electric models.
Dry / electric heating systems are excellent when it comes to quickly heating up a floor, but are not effective at heating up a room. This makes them more of a luxury addition to your central heating, and at a cost of around 10p per square metre, it’s not uncommon to see a small increase (£10 – £12) to your monthly electricity bill.
On the other hand, wet underfloor heating running costs can have a positive impact on your bills. Running off the boiler and offering effective heating of room temperature (for a well-installed unit), you get rid of the need for additional heat sources like radiators.
As mentioned before, given that the UFH can operate up to 30 degrees C lower than radiators for the same heating power, you should see a long-term saving in your bills.
The idea of underfloor heating in your home is still perceived as something of a luxury item for many of us. However, there are practical reasons why you might wish to consider installing it, offering a high-quality alternative heat source, without necessarily breaking the bank.
As well as the luxury, high-class element to underfloor heating, there’s also a degree of versatility that can be appealing to many home owners as well. This is due to its effectiveness as a heat source working beneath almost all floor types that you typically have in a residential property: wood, laminate, tiles, stone or even carpet.
This means a system that not only can effectively warm your rooms and your home, but also offers highly useful savings on wall space.
The Different Types of Underfloor Heating
There are essentially two kinds of heating system to explore. These are:
Electric (Dry) Systems
Dry or electric underfloor systems are a practical, and generally less expensive, option for those looking to install as a DIY project.
They come as heating cables, often interwoven or loosely enmeshed into mats. Alternatively, you might find types that come as film, ribbon or flat cables.
The mats or cables are then rolled out across the surface of the floor before being connected together and hooked up to a thermostat and the electricity mains. You would then lay your flooring over the top.
Where you would use the different types of electric heating:
- Loose wire / cables – ideal for stone or tiled floors, as well as rooms that have more of an out of the ordinary shape
- Mesh Mats – These can also be used perfectly well for stone floors and would be an ideal solution for larger rooms or more regular square, rectangular rooms
- Foil Mats – This type of underfloor heating is designed for use under laminate flooring
Generally, dry systems such as these are cheaper and less disruptive to install, and can offer quick heating when in use, as they are a direct source of heat.
How They Generate Heat
The series of electric wires within the dry system is the method of heating the floor. As a direct source of heat, from the electric supply, the floor will warm effectively and quite quickly, However, they are not typically effective at heating the room itself; as you would expect a radiator to do, for example. This is why they are more commonly used for smaller rooms, or for underfoot comfort in a bathroom perhaps.
Wet (Hot Water) Systems
A much more complex installation that can be disruptive if retrospectively being introduced to an existing, older property. These systems are typically installed in new builds or if a property is having a complete top-to-bottom renovation.
A wet underfloor system comprises a series of pipes that are connected directly to the property’s boiler. This means that the heating comes from the hot water from your central heating system. Any boiler can be used with wet underfloor heating, so long as it has a good enough capacity. However, for the most efficient running costs, condensing boilers work best.
The installation comes from laying plastic pipes on to the sub floor, prior to the main flooring surface is laid. To minimise the risk of leaks, modern heating pipes tend to be continuous so that there are no joints. The pipes are connected to the mains from which the water is then pumped to provide the heat.
While installation is complex and involves a high degree of disruption, the end result is a heating system that’s considerably more cost effective in comparison to the dry options. It can provide an efficient source of heating with typically lower water-heating costs to a traditional radiator, as they use lower temperature water (between 40 to 65 degrees C for a floor temperature in the mid to high 20s).
How They Generate Heat
Wet systems are able to dissipate the heat much more effectively than dry systems, so are better suited to installations on a larger scale across a property. Furthermore, they can offer effective heating of both flooring and room temperature beneath a range of different floor types.
The systems generate heat from hot water running through the pipes in a similar vein to a standard radiator. And, like this more traditional form of room heating, wet UFH radiates the heat through the floor and into the room; and all more efficiently than your standard central heating methods.
Where Would You Install UFH?
As a rule, you would install underfloor heating on the round floor of the property, although there’s no real reason why you couldn’t install anywhere across the house.
With a wet system you can install wherever you have the ability to lift or remove the floor. Or, of course, in a room space where there is new floor being constructed; such as a new build, an extension, conservatory or following a change in layout in the property.
Existing rooms where major disruption is not possible or desired are more suited to the installation of electric heating system. The mesh mats can be more easily laid without serious alteration to the flooring or floor heights. This generally makes it a more viable and realistic choice if you want to install into upper floor rooms and bedrooms.
How to install underfloor heating
Installing underfloor heating can really be a big job in the house, so don’t go into the work blindly. Seek the consultation of a professional, who will be able to provide advice on the essential criteria, such as:
- Calculating the temperatures required for the property
- Ceiling heights and adjustments required
- Best and most appropriate flooring type
As always, do your homework when it comes to the suppliers you use; look at reviews online, or word of mouth recommendations for reputable local professionals. And it’s always worth getting at least two, and preferably three quotes.
Renovation or Applying to Existing Rooms?
This is a big question that will inform you of the best way forward with your installation.
If you’re carrying out a major renovation of your property, then you’re more likely in a position to consider a full wet system as it can be introduced to the property at an early stage before any new flooring has gone down.
You can still install it to an existing room, but be aware that this will require taking up the flooring and replacing with new.
The best approach would be to use screed, with your system laid above. Alternatively, a ‘floating style floor’ could be used, with the pipework beneath.
By going down this route, you need to know that the amount of work increases, as do the considerations you have to take, such as the fact that floor heights will alter, with knock-on effects for the skirting, doors and area of the room.
If you are installing the system across more than one room, then you need to work with your supplier to ensure that the design is specific enough to account for the different layouts of the rooms and varying materials at play across the property.
This will also affect the calculations for temperature levels, to make sure that each room can be suitably heated without any need for additional heat supplies – which would counter the reason you’re installing it in the first place.
Don’t Forget the Insulation
Installing underfloor heating might be a costly outlay at the installation stage, but correctly placed it can and should provide a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution in the long run. To achieve this, you need to ensure that heat loss is kept to a minimum, which is where appropriate insulation comes in play.
Account for space for insulation to be laid beneath the system, keeping any leakage of heat at bay and directing the warmth up and into your room.
How to Control the System
As is the case with traditional central heating systems with radiators, you will want to be able to simply control the heat emitted.
This can be through thermostatic valves that can be located in a convenient place within your home, typically a spare cupboard or similar.
Modern floor heating systems can also be linked to wireless internet controls, such as Hive units, allowing you to control them via your smart phone.
Do it Yourself or Call the Pros
Having taking consultation at the outset, it’s likely you will want to utilise their expertise to carry out the installation.
That said, DIY installations are certainly possible – especially If installing the easier electric heating systems.
However, given the disruption that can occur, and the complexity that is involved, you need to be very sure of your ability before attempting, and serious consideration ought to be given for using a professional installer.
Underfloor heating may seem like a luxury item for a more opulent lifestyle. Of course, installing an electric system to the bathroom might be a luxuriant touch when walking barefoot in the winter. However, for many people, installing an effective wet underfloor system offers a much more practical and energy efficient solution for the home. A way of heating your home effectively and more efficiently than traditional radiator-based central heating units.
It can certainly be a complex, disruptive and costly thing to install – and a reason why it is typically introduced into new builds – and something that great care should be taken to get right, either through DIY or via a reputable installer.
However, once installed, you can have a long-term heating solution in your home that saves you space, generates exceptional ambient comfort all year round, and goes a long way towards reducing your energy output and reducing your costs.