Underfloor heating: Electric Underfloor Heating or Water Underfloor Heating?
Underfloor heating is a type of central heating which produces temperature control indoors using radiation, convection, and conduction. It heats a room evenly from floor to ceiling, unlike radiators which only heat the part of the room where they are located, therefore making them an efficient heat source.
Underfloor heating has many advantages, which is why more and more households are opting for it instead of traditional radiators systems.
Underfloor heating looks great, saves space as well as puts an end to trying to make the furniture fit around the ugly radiators. But it isn’t only for the house proud, underfloor heating is a more efficient way of heating your home and could ultimately put less pressure on your wallet too. If you are considering underfloor heating for your home, you’re most likely asking yourself which type of underfloor heating you should get; electric or water? This decision is going to be influenced by numerous factors, such as your budget, how much of the house you want to be heated with underfloor heating, or even things like the shape of the room or whether your plumbing system uses heat pumps. Underfloor heating is a long-term solution to cost and energy efficient heating and so it is crucial you make the right choice.
So which type of underfloor heating should you go for? It’s a difficult decision, which requires lots deliberation. That is why I have decided to write about each type, whilst considering the pros and cons, to help you make the right choice. So let’s get started…
Electric Underfloor Heating
Electric underfloor heating is installed by laying high resistance matting or cable which directly heats the flooring. This radiates the heat into the room from underneath the floor. Because the cable and matting can be cut and altered to size, it can easily be used to heat particularly small rooms or rooms in an awkward shape. Whilst the matting can be installed relatively quickly and easily by a DIY enthusiast, it is important to note that a qualified electrician also needs to be present to connect it to the mains electrical supply.
It is also important to note that for materials such as laminated flooring, which isn’t very resistant to high temperatures, you may have to use a ribbon cable system, which will add to the installation costs. Electric underfloor heating is usually found in small or awkward rooms, and usually rooms on upper floors. It is also most suited to renovation projects as it is quick and easy to install. Electric systems are also great for homes with no main gas supply.
Pros of Electric Underfloor Heating:
- Electric underfloor heating is relatively cheap to install, costing on average £65 per meter squared of matting, and does not require a trained professional to install the matting, only to connect it to the mains.
- Installation is relatively easy to install because there is no pipework involved in the installation process, just matting or cables.
- The installation process is as easy for upper floors as it is for ground or lower floors.
- It is a perfect solution if you are looking to install underfloor heating for just a few rooms, or small and awkwardly shaped rooms.
- Electric underfloor heating can be controlled via a smart thermostat and allows you to control the heating of each individual room, as opposed to single control which is attributed to traditional central heating.
- Electric underfloor heating is also ideal if you have your own supply of electricity such as a solar or wind system, not to mention environmentally friendly.
Cons of Electric Underfloor Heating:
- Electric underfloor heating is much more expensive to maintain compared to water underfloor heating, costing around 10-12p per KWh, meaning that it may not be very cost-effective, despite being cheap to install initially.
- Due to the delicacy of the matting and cable, heavy furniture needs to be placed carefully and strategically to avoid damaging the matting once it has been installed.
- Many homeowners find that electric underfloor heating does not heat the room as well as they would like it due, probably due to the poor quality of the matting found in cheaper products, so sometimes a larger investment is necessary to achieve maximum effectiveness.
- Depending on the material of the floor, it is sometimes necessary to use a ribbon cable system, which increases the cost of installation, and if not used when required, the electric underfloor heating could permanently damage the flooring which it is under.
Water Underfloor Heating
Water underfloor heating is installed using a network of pipes under the floor. To enable the heating of the floor and ultimately the room, warm water flows through this network of pipes, usually from a gas boiler. Water underfloor heating is generally durable and robust so you’re very unlikely to experience any leakages or any other problems.
The temperatures of the water required for water-based underfloor heating systems is significantly lower than that of radiator temperatures. Water underfloor heating is easily installed during the construction of new-build properties where the floor heights have not yet been established. In existing homes, it is generally more labour intensive as you need to remove some or most of the existing flooring. Water underfloor heating can be used to cool rooms as well as heat if used simultaneously with a heat pump. Water underfloor systems are more likely to be installed in ground to lower floors, due to the lack of space under to floor in upper floors in between the joists.
Pros of Water Underfloor Heating:
- Water underfloor heating is significantly cheaper to run than electric underfloor heating, costing 4-6p per kWh, and therefore is up to three times less expensive to run than electric systems.
- It reaches a much higher efficiency when used in conjunction with a heat pump, making it much more energy and cost efficient than electric systems, as well as more environmentally friendly (provided the home does not have an external renewable energy power source system).
- It is both incredibly reliable and effective, especially during the colder winter months, and so makes for a much better form of central heating than radiators for example.
- It allows heating as well as cooling, unlike electric systems and so is ideal for homes that are not easily ventilated or air-conditioned during hot summer weather.
- If you are looking to sell on your property after installing the underfloor heating system, using the water system would greatly increase the worth of the house as opposed to the electric system, which although would still increase the property’s value, due to its high maintenance cost, may make the house seem unattractive to potential buyers.
Cons of Water Underfloor Heating:
- Installation costs are expensive, especially if you are installing the water underfloor heating system in an already-built home. The average cost of pipe installation is £100 per square meter. If you want to install it into your entire home, it can quickly begin to add up.
- The savings in comparison to radiators does not always make it cost effective, mainly due to the sheer cost of installation.
- The height of the room among other physical aspects of the house will be altered if the pipework needs to be fitted into an already built house. This can be problematic, especially if your home has a low ceiling.
- If there does happen to be any issues with the heating system, the pipes will be difficult to reach and due to the extensive network of pipes, the problem may be difficult to locate and fix.
- Water underfloor systems will struggle to heat buildings with low quality or not enough insulation.
So there you have it; a description of both water and electric underfloor heating systems as well as their pros and cons. As you can see, there isn’t really a case where the cons majorly outweigh the pros or vice versa, so it really does depend on numerous factors when deciding. If you have a small budget and timeframe in mind you may prefer to go for the electric underfloor heating system, however, if you are considering renovating the whole house, you may decide it’s worth getting a water underfloor heating system.
A lot of your decision-making process will also be based on personal preferences and circumstances, especially since underfloor heating is a long-term solution to heating your home.It will be something to be used and enjoyed years down the line so it’s important to make the right decision for yourself and your requirements.
Whatever type you opt for, remember to keep in mind the pros and cons of each as well as considering your personal circumstances. The good news is, no matter what you choose, you get to say goodbye to ugly, noisy radiators and can revel in the thought of a silent central heating system that works the way you want it to.
You’ve now equipped yourself with all the necessary knowledge to make your choice, and who knows? You may be enjoying the luxury of a warmer, more spacious, more efficient home a lot sooner than you expected.
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