Pros and cons of underfloor heating

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Around 30 years ago, the thought of underfloor heating was enough to make people dream. A luxury commodity reserved for the elite. The lucky ones.
But the yearning for warm feet goes back a lot further than that.

As long ago as 5,000 BC, early types of Kang and Dikang (heated floor) were found in China, while primitive forms of Ondol (warm stone) were being used in Korea.

The Greeks and Romans followed suit on a larger scale by 500 BC, with a warmth underfoot considered essential for the Roman baths.

Their methods involved various ways of drafting the smoke from fires into the floor.

Luckily for us, we don’t need a bonfire to create our own underfloor heating today. Advances in technology and developments in the understanding of underfloor heating have made it the go-to choice in a lot of new-build homes, with lifecycle costs now comparable to traditional radiators.

Underfloor heating pros and cons

Underfloor heating systems come in two different forms: electric and water.

Electric systems – rely on a network of wires or coils under the floor that heat up.
Water systems – comprise a network of pipes linked to your boiler that pump hot water around a room.

Underfloor heating systems distribute heat more evenly than radiators (water better than electric), eradicate that dreaded draught and often use less energy. However, they’re more complex and therefore can be costly to install.

Underfloor heating pros

  • Comfort – It’s the middle of winter and the thought of getting out of bed is terrifying, but at least you can walk barefoot to the toilet without screaming. And stepping out of the shower onto warm ground is just lovely.
  • Safety – With underfloor heating you won’t have sleepless nights about your kids or young family members bashing into sharp edges or burning their hands on hot radiators.
  • Easy to run – Requires very little to no maintenance and often comes with a lifetime guarantee. No more pretending to know how to bleed the radiator…
  • Better heat efficiency – Heat is now evenly distributed around every room and works at a lower temperature than a traditional radiator, so your energy bills could actually come down. And your floors will stay warm even if the windows are open or a room is very draughty.
  • Increased home value – Because underfloor heating is a desirable feature for home buyers, your property will be worth more when it comes to selling. It’s not a lost investment if you end up moving sooner than planned.
  • More space and design freedom – With no radiators and a hidden heating system, you’ll have more space on the walls.
  • Installation – It’s possible to install it yourself and because underfloor heating systems work well with tiles and stone, it’s an ideal choice for kitchens and bathrooms, i.e. where it will be needed the most.

Underfloor heating cons

  • Cost – The initial cost can be considerable and the installation of the system can cause a lot of upheaval in your home. In older buildings, creating the right conditions under the floor may also be pricey.
  • Time – Underfloor heating takes longer to fire up than a radiator, so you have to use a timer to predict when you want heat in certain rooms.
  • Furniture – You can’t use it under some items of furniture or fittings, which restrict how you set up your home. Large, heavy items may have to go altogether.
  • Installation – If you go for a water-based system, you’ll need to pay a professional to install it. Meanwhile, smaller systems may not heat enough of the room and require radiators anyway.

Underfloor heating installation costs

As we’ve already alluded to, underfloor heating installation costs can be high. So, exactly how much are you looking at? A safe estimation for electric systems installation is £75-£100 per square metre, although this does depend on the type of system. You can lay it yourself to save money, but will still need a qualified electrician to connect it to the power supply which may add between £150 and £250.

Water-based systems tend to be installed during the build phase and therefore incorporated into a construction or renovation project. But as a general rule, they will cost two or three times more than an electric system. Householdquotes.co.uk estimate whole system installations to cost £2,000+.

Is underfloor heating expensive to run?

Right, so you’ve installed your underfloor heating system and the initial costs are starting to become a distant memory. How much will it cost to run?
Electric underfloor heating costs are higher than water-based systems. Why? Well electric systems do a great job of warming the floor but not the whole room. So you can expect a small increase in your electricity bill.

Householdquotes.co.uk estimate electric systems cost just under 10p per square metre when in operation for six hours. An average bathroom of 3.5 square metres could cost around £10 a month to run.

As water-based systems hook up to existing boilers, they replace the need for radiators. And as they’re better at circulating heat, they can use lower water temperatures. A radiator system may require water at between 70°c – 90°c, but a wet underfloor heating system can perform at 50°c. So yes, you might need to pay a bit extra when it’s all set up, you can expect to make a decent saving on your energy bills here.

Energy Management magazine state that while underfloor heating is initially costlier, it does repay itself in the long run in energy savings. Especially when paired with a renewable energy source, underfloor heating can be extremely cost-effective.

However, it’s always useful to have some home energy savings tips banked if you’ve installed underfloor heating and are looking for reasons your bill is so high.

Here are our top three:

  1. Turn off appliances – Don’t leave that red button on the TV on and anything with a clock (microwave or coffee maker perhaps) draws electricity when turned on. If you’re going away for more than a day, turn all the sockets off.
  2. Be smarter about water – Try not to leave taps running (watch out for dripping taps), use a water butt to collect rainwater for the garden and maybe rethink that nightly bath.
  3.  Utilise big appliances – Make sure your dishwasher is full before using it and try and limit your laundry washes for when you really need them.

Time to switch

If you’re working hard at energy-saving but not seeing any rewards, it may be time to switch supplier. Your energy company could be overcharging you by up to £350 on your bills. At WeFlip we do the searching for you, so make that flip now.