Underfloor heating systems Underfloor heating pros and cons
Considering underfloor heating for your home? Our pros and cons can help you decide if it's a good choice for you.
Underfloor heating: the pros
Underfloor heating is a modern and high-spec feature - allowing you to enjoy the luxury of warm floors during cold winter mornings and even providing a good selling point to push up your property's resale price.
A large system can do away with the need for bulky radiators, offering extra space and a clean decorative finish.
Underfloor heating is thought to be a more efficient way of heating a room - where that room's walls, doors and windows are well insulated - because of the way the heat is distributed.
Radiators rapidly heat the area immediately around it, with the heat rising and slowly distributing around the rest of the room. An underfloor system heats a larger surface area from the floor upwards at a lower temperature, resulting in a more consistent temperature.
Pros at a glance
- Provides warm and cosy stone and tile floors
- Can replace radiators in a room, freeing up wall and floor space and offering a high-end finish
- Lots of flexible options available, covering different flooring types
- Possible to install in a new-build or retrospectively
- Off-the-shelf products available for competent DIYers to fit
Underfloor heating: the cons
One common complaint about some underfloor heating systems is the slower heating time compared to other forms of heating - so a room or area can take longer to heat up, depending on the system, though it will also take longer to cool down.
This can be an issue if you need immediate warmth in a room and are depending on the underfloor system to provide it, though a good system should have controls to allow you to pre-programme it to switch on beforehand.
Not all heating systems will provide a total heating replacement for radiators, either - smaller systems will work to keep your floor warm, but won't necessarily be designed to heat up the rest of the room, so you'll need to pay for both forms of heating.
And because underfloor heating isn't suitable sitting underneath fittings or furniture, it could restrict the layout of a room in the future - or require re-laying - should you come to redecorate it.
An underfloor heating system can be pricey to install, maintain and run, particularly if it's supplementary to your main heating system - and is generally seen as a luxury extra rather than home heating essential.
Cons at a glance
- Can be expensive
- Retrofit installation of underfloor heating can be a upheaval
- Not all underfloor heating systems can replace radiators as the main heating source
- Longer heat-up times
Electric vs water underfloor heating
The type of underfloor heating system will depend on the size and shape of the room you're heating, and whether you're installing the system retrofit or as part of a whole refurbishment project.
A water-based underfloor heating system generally requires more depth space for the pipes, making it the trickier of the two to install retrospectively, as there might not be enough space beneath your flooring.
Electric systems tend to be easier to fit in small rooms or awkward spaces. Some electric systems can be fitted by competent DIYers, though hiring a qualified electrician to wire the system up is advisable.
Similarly, you'll need to call in a professional to set up a water pipe system - as they'll need to lay the pipes beneath the floor (along with the other recommended floor insulation and screed) as well as linking it up to a boiler, or solar water heater system.