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23 Feb 2022

Five underfloor heating myths debunked

We look at some of the most popular underfloor heating misconceptions and reveal the facts behind the fiction.

Underfloor heating is an increasingly popular heating system that can make cold bathroom tiles a joy to walk over, or boost a kitchen's cosiness. But many are put off by concerns around cost, disruption, or whether it can be installed in their home at all.

To help you assess whether underfloor heating is the right choice for your home, we've rounded up some of the most common myths and shed light on the truth behind them.

If the idea of warm toes on a winter morning sounds appealing, head over to our full guide: underfloor heating explained.

Myth 1: Underfloor heating can't replace radiators

Underfloor heating in a bathroom

To be fair, this isn't necessarily a complete misconception, as underfloor heating may not let you do away with radiators in every space. But if you have a well-designed underfloor heating system, and a well-insulated home, underfloor heating may be able to replace radiators efficiently and provide a pleasantly even warmth.

In fact, getting rid of intrusive radiators can be a key motivation for installing underfloor heating, as it frees up wall space and makes for a cleaner decorative finish.

Before making any final decisions, though, ask a professional to do the calculations to work out if underfloor heating can realistically replace radiators. In some cases, you might need to also have a small heater or heated towel rail (in a bathroom) to top the heating up on colder days.

Find a reliable underfloor heating installer in your area withWhich? Trusted Traders; we only recommend traders that have been through our rigorous assessment process.

Myth 2: Underfloor heating can't be installed in all homes

While it's easy to assume that this modern, high-spec form of heating can only be fitted in equally modern properties, in fact it can be installed in virtually any home. There is a range of systems available that can be adapted to suit most home types and heating needs.

And, just in case you were wondering, the storey of the building shouldn't be a problem either; underfloor heating can be installed in any type of room or and on any level of your house. So if you live in a top-floor flat, for example, underfloor heating is still an option.

It's worth getting advice from a professional on the right underfloor heating for your home though, as they'll be able to advise on the type and power level of underfloor heating that suits your space best. Factors that can affect your choice include:

  • The size and shape of the area you want to install underfloor heating in. Typically, electric underfloor heating is better for smaller areas (such as a single bathroom), whereas water underfloor heating might be a better choice if you want it throughout your home.
  • How well insulated your space is. Underfloor heating tends to work more efficiently in well-insulated homes; if yours isn't, you might need a more powerful system to reap the benefits.
  • Whether you want it to replace, or supplement, existing radiators. The system you'll need to make a floor feel warm underfoot will be different to the one you'd need as a room's only source of heat.

Myth 3: Underfloor heating doesn't work under carpet

Contrary to common belief, carpet can work perfectly well with underfloor heating, just like most types of flooring. You may need to set the temperature a bit higher to make sure it can get through the carpet.

For best results, it is advised to keep the combined tog value of the underlay and carpet below 2.5.

You should also make sure that your choice of flooring is taken into consideration when designing your underfloor heating system.

Myth 4: My floor will have to be substantially raised to make space for underfloor heating

This is another popular misconception, with concerns existing about needing to cut the bottom off doors or put in half-steps between rooms, but it's not always the case.

Electric systems are typically less bulky than water underfloor heating systems, so the floor might not need to be raised in the same way. There are heating mats or heating-wire-based systems, which are often only a few millimetres thick.

Water underheating systems use pipes and generally need deeper installation. The floor must also be properly prepared and insulated to make the system work efficiently. However, there are now low-profile floor systems available that you can have installed in an existing room without raising the floor considerably or significantly disturbing fittings.

For more on the benefits and potential downsides of underfloor heating benefits check out our guide on the pros and cons of underfloor heating.

Myth 5: If my underfloor heating breaks, it'll be a real hassle to fix

Underfloor heating systems are extremely durable and reliable. Of course things can go wrong, but it's pretty rare. Still, there are precautions you can take to prevent future damage.

It's important for the installer to test any electric underfloor heating system by using a multimeter to check the resistance. This checks the integrity of the heating to ensure it has not been damaged during installation. If this comes back clear, then once the finished flooring has been laid down there is little chance of the system developing a fault.

Even if your system does develop a fault, there's usually no need to lift the entire floor. There are ways of pinpointing the fault by using a thermal imaging camera and specialist testing equipment. With a tiled floor, for example, this might only mean lifting a single tile.

Another common concern is the risk of leaks in water underfloor heating, but faults are extremely rare in reality. In fact, underfloor heating pipe life expectancy ranges between 50 and 75 years.

How much does underfloor heating cost?

While installing underfloor heating can be a great way to make your home cosier, there's no getting round the fact that it can come with a substantial cost attached. And if you already have an effective heating system in place, adding underfloor heating on top may be more of a luxury than a necessity.

It may be a different matter, if you're installing it in a brand new home or extension that needs some form of heating installed. In some cases, underfloor heating may even be more cost-effective than installing a traditional central heating system.

When considering what type to install, bear in mind that electric underfloor heating tends to be cheaper than water underfloor heating to install, but has higher running costs; with water underfloor heating, the reverse is true.

Head over to our guide on underfloor heating costs to get an idea of how much you might pay to install electric and water heating in different types of property.

There are ways to keep costs down when installing underfloor heating in an existing property, such as putting it in when you're already doing work on your floors. Confident DIYers may even be able to save on installation costs by laying electric underfloor heating themselves (you need a qualified electrician to connect it to your energy supply).

And once it's installed, making full use of the linked thermostat to prevent the heating from running higher or longer than it should will help keep running costs to a minimum and avoid wasting energy.

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