A Guide to Underfloor Heating

If you’re considering new ways to heat your home, underfloor heating (UFH) has to be one of the solutions to bare in mind. Its a great space saver and an energy efficient way to warm up your home.

It’s certainly not a new concept however as underfloor heating (hypocaust) was being used as far back as the Romans. The word derives from the ancient Greek – hypo meaning “under” and caust meaning “burnt”. They used raised floors which were sat on pillars of tiles or stones leaving spaces through which the hot air passed then rose up through the walls and out through flues in the roof.

Roman Twin Pic

The hot air was produced by a furnace which would have taken a great amount of wood to fuel and meant only the rich in their villas or public baths could afford to run. Requiring constant attention the furnaces would have been tended by slaves to keep them stocked through the winter months. The rooms requiring most heat would have been situated closest to the furnace, additional heat would have been increased by placing more wood on the fire.

Today UFH systems are extremely comfortable and controllable, radiators are no longer required giving extra room space and heat is more evenly distributed.

In a conventionally heated room using radiators, convection carries heat up walls to the ceiling, missing room interiors and low levels leaving warm heads and cold feet.

Main Pic

Underfloor heating gives a more uniform, gradual heat distribution across the entire floor leaving a more comfortable temperature throughout the whole room space.

There are 2 types of underfoor heating, Hot Water (or wet) systems and Electric Matt (or wire) systems.


Wet systems basically use warm water from your central heating system. The water is pumped through plastic piping that’s laid onto a subfloor prior to a final surface being laid.

Electric systems feature cables which are attached to open weave mesh matt’s or rolls which are laid out onto the floor, connected together, then linked to a thermostat.

Electric systems in general are cheaper to install although more expensive to run than wet systems which are far more cost efficient.

UFH – Pro’s & Con’s

The Pros:

  • The system is hidden away so out of view and doesn’t have the clutter of radiators and due to the even distribution of heat it is a very efficient way to heat your rooms.
  • Radiators heat up the areas immediately around them, which ends up quickly being dispersed upwards and away from the desired area. A well fitted UFH system will heat larger areas more effectively.
  • Radiators have to work harder and run at higher temperatures to work as effectively as UFH.
  • UFH works at lower temperatures, it is possible to fit yourself and works especially well under stone and tiles so is very popular in bathrooms and kitchens.

The Con’s:

  • The major downside is cost, not from the system itself but from the installation, making them more suitable to new builds or when extensive work is being done to work on the floor.
  • Due to the lower running temperatures the system will take longer to initially heat your rooms so a timer is vital to the system.
  • They can also restrict what is placed upon them as they can’t sit under particular fittings and items of furniture.
Is UFH right for you?

To start with underfloor heating isn’t necessarily a money saver, the Energy Saving Trust note that a water based system will only save you £20 a year for the average home using a condensing boiler. Given the substantial installation costs, you are unlikely to be saving much.

Its because the majority of costs are coming from the installation that UFH is ideal for new builds or extensions to your existing home.

However the main attraction for UFH is comfort, keeping feet nice and warm and your rooms more evenly heated. An example being a tiled floors where UFH has been installed will retain heat in the tiles even when a window is left open, compared to the way a radiators heat would dissipate the second a draft enters the room.

New figures show that almost half of all home-owners would prefer to have underfloor heating ahead of other aspirational features, there’s never been a better time to learn about the benefits these systems offer.




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