Radiators have been the primary source of heating for most homes for decades, but this trend is slowly changing, especially with newer homes. Many of the newly constructed homes have underfloor heating, which is, in many ways, more effective and convenient. The best thing about this option is that it can be used in any home and under any kind of flooring, including carpet, tiles, wooden, and even stone. If you are looking forward to redoing the heating in your home, this is an excellent option for you.
Underfloor heating is great since it is cost-effective in the long run and excellent even for smaller homes. This is because it doesn’t require much space. It may need some renovating, especially if you want to install it in a relatively old house, but the costs make sense in most cases. If you are curious about underfloor heating options and the costs involved, whether you are constructing a new home or renovating, this guide has everything you need.
What Are the Types of Underfloor Heating Systems?
There are two types of underfloor heating available in the UK; that is wet (water) and dry (electric) systems. They are both excellent to use in a new building or in case you are doing renovations, but they have different demands, pros, and cons.
For the electric heating systems, there are three options available, namely loose cables, heating foil films, and mats. If you opt for the water type, you can either have a heat pump or a boiler in place. This is why water systems are installed in older buildings that need renovations since many already have a boiler. The following is a breakdown of the kinds of underfloor heating and the most important things to know about them.
Underfloor Heating Cost Calculator
Water Underfloor Heating
This type of heating can be installed under any type of flooring just as the electric option. However, it tends to require more time and equipment since it is not as straightforward, especially when being set up in an older building. While the costs are not that much different depending on what you are going for, this type of system is more suitable for larger homes or buildings.
It uses a network of pipes that pushes hot water under the floor hence heating it and the room as a result. You have the option of using either a heat pump or a boiler, which all have different costs, with heat pumps being the more economical option.
While the initial set up costs may not be ideal for many, in the long run, you will save money since they are more efficient than radiators. If you use a boiler for your system, you should expect higher efficiency of at least 25% and 40% in the case of a heat pump.
Boiler vs. Heat Pumps
The reason why boilers are recommended when dealing with a larger space is that they yield higher water temperatures of around 65 degrees centigrade. This means you can have wider spacing between the pipes, and your home will still be warm. However, if you use a heat pump, you should expect water temperatures of approximately 35 degrees centigrade. If used in a smaller home, this is sufficient with standard spacing, but it would have to be tighter in a larger space.
If you intend to do a renovation to a home with an existing boiler, you may want to choose an energy-saving option. This is because it increases the efficiency of the water systems, so you are set to yield more benefits with one that is more effective.
On whether to choose heat pumps or boilers in your project, either old or new, you should note the following:
- Boilers are best for icy areas since they yield higher temperatures; hence, more energy-efficient.
- Heat pumps are considered more efficient in homes with wooden floors that don’t require too much heat.
- Boilers are, however, more effective when you choose an energy-saving model
Remember that this is not suitable do it yourself project unless you are a professional. To get the best out of your heating system, you should get experts to install it since they can advise in case of challenges. This is quite common when installing water systems in an older building.
Electric Underfloor Heating
Electric heating is cheaper to install and less complicated, depending on what you choose. The materials are more affordable to purchase, and labour shouldn’t cost as much as wet systems since it is easier to do. However, depending on your electricity costs, this could prove a more expensive option long term. Therefore, you should only consider electric heating if your space is smaller. Here are the different kinds of electric systems available for you.
Loose Cable Fitting
If you have an irregular shaped home or room, loose cables are your best option. They are more flexible so they can work efficiently in corners and curves without affecting the quality of heating. This is why it is the most common option for kitchens or bathrooms with odd shapes since the installation is more straightforward.
Even when you choose heating mats for most of your home, the loose cables can come in handy in rooms that don’t have a defined shape. They are cheaper to buy and install in such places, and you may end up saving about 20% more on laying them down compared to the mats.
Foil Film Heating Systems
This option is not suitable for every type of flooring, but where it works, it does the job remarkably, guaranteeing you a perfectly warm room. It is most appropriate for laminate, wooden, and parquet floors. A solid subfloor is needed for this type of installation, preferably with a layer of insulation to maximise the warming time.
This is one of the most commonly used electric underfloor heating systems because it works great for all types of floors. It also ensures efficiency since the flooring doesn’t affect heat retention; hence you should expect higher electric bills.
The mats work well for well-shaped rooms since little manipulation is needed to install the system. For adequate heating, you should opt for heating mats that are at least 150W/m2, which is excellent for most floors. Choosing the correct size is simple as can be since most of them are usually already spaced. Do not be afraid to go for higher watt mats when purchasing since this allows you to achieve even distribution of heat, which is essential for efficiency while keeping your bill low.
If you wish to get the most out of your electric systems, ensure that you insist on getting a layer of insulation material on the floor. It is an important step that helps heat your concrete floors faster and assures you that not too much heat is lost. This goes a long way in reducing the overall costs of your project.
Factors That Affect the Cost of Installing Underfloor Heating
Dry and wet systems have different costs depending on various factors, including location. Most of these factors can be controlled, so you have a chance to minimise the expenses for your set up.
Type of Underfloor Heating
Wet systems require much expertise and equipment to install compared to the dry ones. This means it is costlier to install underfloor water heating than electric, so this is important for you to note. It will also cost you more in labour, and even if you are big on DIY projects, this may not be easy to achieve.
On the other hand, wet systems prove more affordable in the long term. Once you have an excellent energy-saving broiler or quality heat pumps, the running costs are pretty low. Electricity is generally more expensive, and you may have to spend even more on maintenance. However, before you decide, remember to consider the size of the building.
Size of Space
You should think very carefully about the best option when dealing with different spaces. As stated earlier, wet systems are better suited for ample space, especially in a relatively cold place. This is because the underfloor heating yields more energy and is better utilised in such an area. The issue here is to find out whether a boiler or a heat pump will give you the most savings.
For smaller homes, electric underfloor heating is most suitable. This is because it is easier to install and more cost-effective, while maintenance fees remain pretty low. Electricity is also pretty expensive in most areas, so if you use it to heat a large space, you might as well stick to the conventional radiators. Ensure you consult about the different options available, whether mats, loose cables of foil films will work best in your house.
Type of Flooring
One of the best reasons to use underfloor heating is that it works for all kinds of floors. However, not all the options are well optimised when using specific flooring. For example, wet systems work for all variants but some electric alternatives are better for particular surfaces and not others.
You can use heating mats for all types of floors, but heating foil film is better suited for concrete, tiles, and wooden floors. If you want to install carpet in your home, this will leave you at a disadvantage. Loose cables also work best when the floor is solid as it allows it to heat up faster while saving costs.
Renewable Energy Incentives
To encourage more homeowners to use renewable energy options, the government came up with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This is a program that helps you reduce heating costs when you choose environmentally friendly alternatives. When installing underfloor heating, always opt for energy-saving boilers such as biomass, air to heat, and ground to water heat pumps. This can reduce your overall costs by 20%.
Age of the Building
Generally, it is easier to install underfloor heating in a new building rather than one undergoing renovations. However, remember that the size of the house and consumption ultimately dictates whether you will choose wet or dry systems. To know what is most suitable for your new or older home, the following is what you need:
New building- when constructing a new building, you need to set in place the correct concrete base and insulation that works with both dry and wet underfloor heating systems. Most modern buildings usually adopt the electric option mostly because installation costs are lower, and it is simpler to install. For a new house, the installation costs could average £35 per square meter.
If the space in your house is much larger, it means that wet systems would be a great option in the long haul, but remember that the initial cost is high. If the floor and subfloor are already well laid, the installation would cost about £80 per square meter on the lower end.
Older building: if you are doing a renovation, you should know that your work is cut out for you. Regardless of whether you choose wet or dry systems, changing from radiators to underfloor heating will involve quite a bit of work.
Electric systems are excellent if you are working on a relatively small space. Heating mats require that you are very specific on size, but in case of uncertainties, you should always go lower and then increase the materials as you go along. This ensures that you don’t end up with excesses, which will inflate your overall expenses unnecessarily.
If you use loose cables for approximately four square meters, you should budget for around £250. Water systems are, of course, more expensive, so excluding other flooring works, it may cost you about £150 per square meter.
How Much Does Underfloor Heating Cost?
Since there are a lot of factors to consider when installing underfloor heating, it is best to get a contractor on the ground and get an exact quote. This cost guide should give you a general idea of what you expect to pay for both wet and dry systems.
Wet Systems Installation
Remember that if your floor needs any improvement or adjustment, it is not factored in the following prices. If you opt for a contractor, you should work with an average hourly rate of £30. Always ask whether labour is included in any quote you get to avoid any confusion or surprises. On the lower side, it should cost you about £100 per square meter, excluding labour. Note that this can go up to £200 depending on your location as material and additional equipment prices vary.
Dry Systems Installation
This is the cheaper option in terms of equipment and material. Labour charges are often standard; however, you are always free to negotiate depending on the size of the project. If you choose electric foil film, which is the most affordable of the three options, you can pay an average of £50 per square meter. When using either loose cables or electric mats, your costs may range between £65 and £80 depending on the simplicity of the project and how long it will take.
Other costs not factored in these prices include a quality thermostat, which is essential to control the heat as well as timing. There are various automatic and manual thermostats to choose from, so make the best choice for your building.
Pros and Cons of Installing Underfloor Heating in the UK
There are many reasons why you should choose underfloor heating compared to the usual radiators, although there are a few disadvantages. Here are a few points to help you in analysing what you stand to gain.
Wall radiators consume quite a bit of space, and this is not ideal, especially when you have a small home. Since underfloor heating is placed below the flooring, it doesn’t use up any space. Therefore, if you have limited room to work with, then this is a great option.
Better Heat Distribution
One thing that radiators don’t guarantee is that your whole space will be warmed fully. It is common to end up with some cold spots, and since it doesn’t pick which places are warmer, this can be quite inconveniencing. Underfloor heating, on the other hand, is entirely distributed under your entire floor. This means it is impossible to have any cold places so you can comfortably walk all over your home.
With proper insulation and a working thermostat, it is possible to optimise the underfloor heating much better than conventional systems. If you have adequate energy management, you can make savings of between 10% and 25% yearly compared to using wall radiators. The savings can be more when using wet systems effectively.
If you enjoy walking in your home without slippers, then underfloor heating will not only make this possible during winter but also more comfortable. The floor is heated evenly, and once you learn what temperatures are optimal for your home, you won’t even realise how cold the winters are.
If you hope to sell your home in the future, it is in your best interest to install underfloor heating since it is most preferred. More people are aware of the benefits of wet and dry systems against wall mounted radiators, so they are likely to choose a home with such a setup. You can get better sale prices, and it will be easier to sell your house.
If you want to save on costs further, you may manage to install electrical systems by yourself, especially when using mats. You may need to do a little research, but it is pretty straightforward for the most part. You will need an electrician to handle the more complicated connections, but this will only cost you a fraction of the labour costs you would have incurred.
There are a few downsides to choosing underfloor heating such as:
High Cost of Installation
Generally, it costs more to install underfloor heating compared to the wall-mounted radiators, especially if you opt for wet systems. The equipment, material, and labour are quite high, and while you make some savings on bills, it will take a bit of time for you to break even. Remember that older homes will incur up to double the initial installation expenses, so you should consider whether this is a worthy investment.
It Should Be Installed in the Whole Building
Due to the high initial costs, most people are unable to make it for the entire house hence choose a few rooms to install the underfloor heating. The biggest problem with this is you end up having differing temperatures in your home, which can be quite uncomfortable. Also, the bills will be high when the whole house is not optimised.
Takes Long to Heat
Underfloor systems generally take quite a bit of time before they warm up the whole building. As a result, you either have to leave the heat over the entire winter or give it some time to get up to temperature. It is usually better and more economical to leave the heat on throughout since reheating the floor takes not only more time but also energy. It can contribute to higher running costs in the long run.
To help you with this, you should have a timer or a thermostat with one, so you know how long it takes to get to ideal temperatures. This allows you to set it before you get home, so you come into a warm house.
Underfloor heating is the preferred way of heating buildings, and this is because it is efficient. The initial costs can be alarming, but if you weigh how much you gain from the installation compared to regular radiators, the prices make sense. This is why you should take time to research your options, consult several providers, and get quotes before deciding on the best direction to take.
While making your comparisons, remember the size of your space is the number one determiner of the best alternative for you. If you choose to take on this project by yourself, ensure that you have your research and equipment in place. If possible, consult an expert who can give you some advice on essential points of consideration.