Underfloor heating is a great alternative to conventional radiators and it might even be a better heating solution for some homes. Not only does underfloor heating make those cold winter months cosier by gently warming your feet, but it also removes the need for radiators, saving precious space – perfect for smaller flats and houses. But even if you have plenty of space, underfloor heating can be a very appealing heating option, especially if you’re into the ever-popular minimalist look. Best of all? Floor heating can be installed under almost any type of flooring, including wood, tiles and stone.
But how much you pay for this type of heating varies massively depending on a number of factors. To make sure you don’t end up spending more money than is necessary, we give you our comprehensive guide to underfloor heating. Read on to find out all about different types of floor heating, how much each system costs to fit and run, and more!
How Much Does Underfloor Heating Cost?
The cost of underfloor heating depends on several factors, including:
- The type of heating you choose (electric or water)
- Whether you’re building a new home or renovating
- The size of your room or home
- The installer you hire
Electric systems are typically cheaper to buy and easier and faster to install than water systems. In any case, costs are higher when retro-fitting the underfloor heating in an existing home whether you opt for electric or water heating. For instance, whereas electric heating in a new build takes one to two days to complete, water heating takes four to six days. As for renovated houses, the completion time is even longer: about two to three days for electric heating and five to seven days for water heating.
Here’s a basic price breakdown for a 60m² home and around £30 contractor hourly rate
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Bear in mind that this is a basic price breakdown – labour costs and even material costs might vary depending on your location and contractor. This said, the prices for electric heat mats are around £50 to £75 per square metre, but this is excluding the thermostat. As for the water system, the prices vary quite dramatically, depending on whether you’re fitting just one room or the entire house, whether the system will be on the ground floor, how close it is to the boiler, and so on. What’s certain is that the water-based system will always be pricier than the electric one.
How Much Does Underfloor Heating Cost to Run?
While water-based underfloor heating is more expensive to install, it is actually cheaper to run. This is because this type of heating is typically more efficient – especially in larger rooms -so it runs for less. Let’s not forget that electricity is also typically more expensive than gas. Additionally, if you use proper floor levelling, you can significantly decrease the required flow temperature – by around 20% or more – which can help you save around £10 per each degree on a yearly basis.
Having said this, both electric and water underfloor heating systems can be regulated to be more efficient. Installing the right insulation, for instance, can make the electric system up to 50% more efficient. Floor covering also plays a role in the efficiency of heating – stone and tile are the absolute best materials thanks to their conductivity (quick to warm up, slow to cool down). It’s also more economical to use underfloor heating either occasionally or constantly at a low level instead of in short bursts because the latter means the floor will have to go from cold to warm every time you use it.
Types of Underfloor Heating
As mentioned, there are two main types of underfloor heating: electric, also known as the dry system, and water, also known as the wet system. Let’s cover each type in a bit more detail, so you can decide which one is better suited for your home and budget.
Electric underfloor heating
Electrical heating uses electricity to warm your floors and based on its construction can be split into three systems:
- Foil film. Designed specifically for laminate, parquet and wooden flooring. For best results, foil film or matt should be installed on top of concrete or chipboard with insulation.
- Loose wire. This type is best suited to tile and stone floors, as well as non-regularly shaped rooms with odd corners as wires are flexible.
- Heating mats. Matts or rollers retain heat very well, so they’re great for tile, stone and marble floors. But because they’re pre-spaced, they’re best suited for large and traditionally shaped rooms.
Dry floor heating is much cheaper to buy and easier to install than wet heating. In fact, if you’re an experienced DIYer, you might even be able to install the system all by yourself! Another advantage of this type of heating is that it is by far the better choice for retrofits.
Water underfloor heating
Water or wet underfloor heating is connected to a home’s central heating system (boiler or a heat pump) via a system of pipes that are placed beneath the flooring. The main characteristic of this type of heating is that it works with lower temperature water. This means that while more expensive to buy and install (especially if you’re renovating), water floor heating is more efficient and therefore cheaper to run than electric floor heating.
Unlike the electric heating, however, the water system requires professional installation (no DIY-ing allowed here!) as it is a more complex project. The good news is that any boiler can be used for wet heating, as long as it has an adequate capacity (your installer should check whether your boiler supports the system).
How Does Electric Underfloor Heating Work?
As the name suggests, the electrical underfloor heating utilizes electricity from your home’s mains electricity supply in order to warm your floors. The system does this via wires or mats that are installed underneath the floor. In essence, the system turns your floors into one large, warm radiator.
This type of floor heating varies in terms of wattage, from around 100W to 200W per m2. Of course, the wattage you choose for your home should depend on certain factors, such as the type of flooring you have on top and below the system, the size of the room and how well it is insulated. We always recommend placing electrical heating on top of a layer of floor insulation so that the heat can travel upwards instead of downwards.
While the electrical underfloor heating does a great job at heating smaller rooms, it’s not so good at heating larger spaces. For this reason, it’s recommended to install it in bathrooms and other smaller and odd-shaped rooms.
How Does Water Underfloor Heating Work?
Water or wet underfloor heating system connects to the central heating system, circulating hot water through the pipework that is fitted underneath the floors. Aside from connecting to a boiler or heat pump, wet floor heating can also be connected to a solar heater. Either way, the system works the same – hot water runs through a series of pipes, making them radiate heat through the floor and into the living space.
The installation of water heating is a lot more complex and costly than the installation of electric heating, which is why it’s essential to hire a professional. Because of the complexity and price of installation, wet underfloor heating is mostly recommended for new builds.
While pricier to buy and more difficult to install, wet underfloor heating is more efficient to run than electric heating. Thus, this system is best suited to larger areas or entire flats/houses, as the heat is dissipated very well. Of course, proper insulation is always recommended.
Pros and Cons of Underfloor Heating
Like all heating systems, underfloor heating – whether electrical or water – comes with plenty of benefits but some disadvantages as well.
The top pros of underfloor heating include:
- More space and design freedom as the heating is beneath the floor
- Even and consistent heating throughout the entire room or house
- Effortless to run, practically no maintenance needed
- Works with almost all floor coverings
- May be beneficial for asthma sufferers as it prevents dust mites circulation
Some disadvantages of underfloor heating:
- Can take longer to heat up than conventional radiators
- Can be expensive to install or run, depending on the system and home
- In older houses/flats, the installation can take a lot of time and change
- Not recommended for rooms with large, heavy furniture or thick carpets
Does Underfloor Heating Cost Less than Radiators?
It depends on the type of the heating system. Because electricity is more expensive than gas, running the electrical or dry underfloor heating will be more expensive than heating a home via gas radiators. However, water underfloor heating is cheaper to run long-term. The issue is, it is more expensive to buy and install. The good news is, if you use a renewable source of energy, you can qualify for a financial incentive scheme.
What type of flooring is best for underfloor heating?
While underfloor heating can work with almost any floor covering, certain materials are natural heat conductors and are therefore best suited to underfloor heating. As you might have guessed, these are stone and tile. With high thermal conductivity, stone and tile are not only faster to heat up, but they also retain heat for long, making them highly efficient.
Still, underfloor heating works well with other floor coverings as well, including tiles, vinyl, linoleum, solid and engineered wood. If you opt for any of these materials, just make sure they’re not too thick.
What’s the ideal temperature for underfloor heating?
The ideal temperature for floor heating depends on two factors: your home and preferences. This said, it’s wise to stay within a certain range because if you set the temperature too high, your bills will skyrocket (and your floors may be uncomfortable to walk on!), and if you set it too low, your room or home won’t heat up completely.
So, while there is no such thing as the ideal temperature for underfloor heating for everyone, it is generally recommended to set it between 26°C and 32°C. For living areas, the sweet spot seems to be around 28°C for most people. It’s healthier to keep the temperature in bedrooms a bit lower, so around 26°C works great. Most folks like their bathrooms warm and toasty, so anywhere between 30°C and 32°C is a good range.
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Can you fit underfloor heating in old houses?
You can fit underfloor heating in both old and new houses, however, when it comes to retrofits, it’s a good idea to double-check if this is the best and most cost-effective heating option. Older buildings and houses typically have low energy efficiency because they have poor insulation and single glazing, making them unable to retain heat for a comfortable living. However, if you’re planning some renovation anyway, including installing better insulation and energy-efficient windows and doors, underfloor heating could be a great option. Still, it’s worth noting that the installation of underfloor heating in older flats is more expensive than in new builds.
How long does underfloor heating take to warm up?
How long your underfloor heating will take to warm up depends on a few things, including your heating system, floor covering (remember, stone and tile are best heat conductors) and insulation under the heating. In general though, it typically takes between 2 to 4 hours for the floors to warm up.
Can I install underfloor heating myself?
If you opt for electrical underfloor heating and you’re a confident DIY-er, you may be able to install the system yourself! However, if you choose the water underfloor system for your home, you’ll definitely want to hire a professional. Either way, you should hire an electrician to connect the system to the electricity mains supply and thermostat.
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