Shane Oxberry of YPS Plumbing supplies recaps the many compelling benefits of underfloor heating.
Neat, economical to run, reliable and green, it’s tempting to recommend underfloor heating (UFH) for every new build, renovation or extension.
Unless you demand period cast iron radiators, which admittedly can be beauti- ful in the right setting, it’s difficult to see the downside.
In the interests of balance, there are just a few small caveats to UFH. For example, it is essential that you have accurate tempera- ture control and use of modern, digital thermostats is required. Also, installation, particularly when retro-fitting, can be more difficult and more expensive than conven- tional radiators.
The advantages of a well-installed system are many. A properly run system gives you cosy feet and a cooler head, in line with the body’s natural requirements. Heat rises uniformly rather than in pockets in differ- ent parts of the room, which happens with radiators.
You can’t see it – there is no need to ruin a lovely, modern, minimalist house with radiators and even radiator covers. It takes up no space – radiators take up a surprising amount of room, especially when you consider how they restrict your placement of furniture and shelving. UFH is silent, with none of the gurgles and hums which occasionally emit from even the most modern or radiators.
Underfloor heating is extremely low maintenance, and you don’t have to bleed it. You can control the temperature of each room separately – users can choose a differ- ent temperature in the living room, bedroom and baby’s nursery.
It is healthier, there is less dust movement and floors will dry much quicker after cleaning. It’s greener and cheaper to run – less fuel use means lower bills and fewer CO2 emissions.
So, if you are persuaded underfloor heating is the right choice, what system should you specify?
There are basically four types. Solid floor heating, suspended floor heating, floating floor heating and over floor heating.
Solid floor heating is ideal for ground floors in new build and renovation projects. Piping is fitted in the floor panels, then covered with screed under the final floor finish. You can fit it to any shape of room in a simple grid pattern, and you can use an edging insulation strip to ensure maximum efficiency.
Suspended floor heating can be installed easily between the joists of a suspended floor from either above or below, and UFCH pipes can be laid between battens above the joists. The system then sits under standard tongue and groove floor- boards, which can be covered with any flooring.
Floating floor heating is great for retro- fits. It can sit in floating floors above an existing solid or timber floor. Polyplumb pipe is pressed into a heat emitter plate which sits in grooves in the floating floor insulation panel. Then tongue and groove floorboards are laid, above which any floor covering can be used.
Over floor heating is the ideal solution for renovators and retrofitters. It can be laid over existing floors while adding only a minimal amount of height, and it can be used with any type of floor covering. The system is usually just 18 mm thick and tiles, wood or laminate flooring can be applied directly on top of it. If it is to be used with carpeting, you should lay a 4 mm plywood cover first.
Over floor heating is also extremely responsive, can be used on intermediate floors, can be linked to existing radiator systems with systems such as a Polyplumb Zonal Regulation Unit, and it can be used on almost any sized room – if you use it with a ZRU it can heat rooms up to 25 m2.
Once your system is installed, of course, your work’s not finished. If it’s a water- based system, you need to make sure the boiler is up to the job.
Underfloor heating is an ideal partner for air source and ground source heat pumps.
Whether your system is water-based or electric, as with any type of heating, insulation is key. It pays to go beyond the Building Regulations if you want real fuel efficiency and heat capture. Cavity wall insulation, draught excluders and double glazing should all be installed wherever possible.
Government figures show the average household can save up to £300 a year if the window, wall, floor and roof insulation is done correctly. This will also cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 1.5 tonnes.
There’s one final, often overlooked consideration when choosing to specify or install underfloor heating – you can’t hang your towels on it. So don’t forget to fit a nice upright radiator in the bathroom!
Shane Oxberry is managing director at yPs Plumbing supplies