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Underfloor heating explained

Electric underfloor heating

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Electric underfloor heating

Is electric underfloor heating right for your home? Read on to find out how it works and how much it costs to install.

Underfloor heating can help keep floors and rooms warm and offer a space-saving alternative to radiators. It can sit beneath pretty much any type of floor, including stone, tile, wood and carpet.

There are two main types of underfloor heating: electric underfloor heating, which is also known as a dry system, and water underfloor heating, also called a wet system. 

When we asked underfloor heating owners* about the type of underfloor heating they have in their home, the majority (69%) said they have electric underfloor heating and 36% have water. 

On this page we look at how an electric system works (you can find out more about water underfloor heating here).

How does an electric underfloor heating system work?

In an electric underfloor heating system, a series of electric wires or electric heating sheets are installed beneath or within your flooring. These are used to heat an area or a room, such as a cold, tiled bathroom floor.

The majority (48%) of people we spoke to had underfloor heating installed in just one room, most commonly in their bathroom (55%).

They're usually placed on top of a layer of screed (to ensure the surface is completely flat) and a layer of floor insulation (to ensure the heat travels upwards rather than down). 

There's an electric underfloor heating system for nearly every flooring type. The electric system you install will depend on the size of the room and how well insulated it is, what the flooring below it is like, whether it is insulated and the type of flooring you'll have on top. 

Options include loose-fit wiring flexible enough to fit into small or awkward spaces, electric cable systems, or heating mats you roll out to cover larger areas.

Our guide to underfloor heating pros and cons lays out everything you need to know to make the right decision, including expert buying tips. 

Installing electric underfloor heating

Most people choose to employ a professional company or trader to install underfloor heating. Professionals are best placed to recommend what system to install and how to prepare the floor.

If you are a confident DIYer, you could feasibly install the electric heating sheets or cables yourself - but you'll need a qualified electrician to connect your system to your electric mains supply and fit a sensor that connects to the thermostat. The sensor allows you to control the temperature and pre-set the system to turn on or off. 

81% of the people we asked who have underfloor heating got a company, builder or supplier to install it. Just 12% fitted it themselves (12 people). 

Find an underfloor heating installer in your area using Which? Trusted Traders.

How much does electric underfloor heating cost to install and run? 

Costs for roll-out underfloor heating mats start from around £250 for a kit with 10 square metres (150v). You'll also need to factor in the cost of insulation board, screed and heating controls. 

Obviously, if you install it yourself, that won't cost anything. But you will need to pay an electrician's call out and labour charges. 

We've researched the cost of installing electric underfloor heating, and asked installers across the UK to tell us what can affect the price. You can find out more by going to underfloor heating cost and installation.

Because electric systems are generally quite thin and simple to fit, they can be easier and less hassle to install in an existing room than a wet heating system, which requires some space for pipework and could involve the floor being raised.

Electric underfloor heating is cheaper to install than a wet system (and you can even do it yourself) but it's more expensive to run. For that reason, many of the installers we spoke to don't recommend this form of underfloor heating for large areas.

To find out what underfloor heating owners think about the costs of running underfloor heating, whether it saved them money on their heating bills, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of getting underfloor heating, go to the pros and cons of underfloor heating.  

(*In November 2017 we asked 99 Which? members with underfloor heating about their experiences with it in the last five years.)