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Underfloor heating explained

Underfloor heating pros and cons

By Liz Ransome-Croker

Article 3 of 4

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Discover the pros and cons of water and electric underfloor heating, including whether it can replace radiators, how effective it is and whether it costs a lot run.

Installing underfloor heating, particularly a water system in an existing room, can be expensive and messy. But it can also be a great way to take the chill off a cold bathroom floor, or potentially heat a room without the need for radiators.

To help you decide whether underfloor heating is right for you, we've spoken to owners to find out about their experiences of getting and using underfloor heating, whether they think it's been beneficial, and what they wish they had known before they bought it*.

We've also spoken to industry experts, including those from Polypipe, Warmup Plc and The Underfloor Heating Store, to find out what you should think about before buying underfloor heating, and to answer your common questions. 

Read on to find out the main benefits and drawbacks, and click on the questions below to jump down to the answer you're interested in.

If you're a Which? member, you can log in to unlock all our expert advice and insight from members who own underfloor heating to help you decide whether it's the right choice for you.  

Not yet a member? Join Which? today to unlock our advice and get access to our guide on underfloor heating costs and installation, which is based on speaking to dozens of installers across the country. You'll also unlock thousands of product reviews, from boilers to vacuum cleaners. 

Is underfloor heating worth getting? 

Underfloor heating is a modern and high-spec feature that allows you to enjoy the luxury of warm floors during cold winter mornings, particularly with naturally cold stone and tile floors. 

This was one of the main reasons why people we've spoken to got underfloor heating – scroll down to see owners' comments on the pros of getting underfloor heating

However, there are some things you need to weight up to decide whether it's right for you on balance – you can also look at owners' cons of getting underfloor heating. We'd suggest thinking about your lifestyle and how you use your house. Are you mainly in the kitchen, or maybe always in late after work? 

These sorts of things will affect how much you'll actually use the underfloor heating (and therefore whether it's worth getting), what room or rooms it makes most sense to have it in, and how you will need to set the timings to suit your needs.

Where can underfloor heating be installed? 

You can get underfloor heating fitted in pretty much any home and under almost any type of flooring. It can also be tailored to your needs, the room it will sit in and the flooring type, so that you get the right heat output for your home.

It's also possible to install it in a new-build or retrospectively. Many of the underfloor heating owners we've spoken to said they got it installed because they were renovating their house, so it made sense to have it done while work was being carried out. A lot also said it was because they wanted it added to the new extension or conservatory.

The most popular room for people to install underfloor heating in is their bathroom. We found that:

  • 55% of people have their underfloor heating installed in their bathroom
  • 46% in their kitchen
  • 26% in their living room
  • 24% in their hallway.

Underfloor heating also allows you to have different 'zones' (the area of heating), which you will be able to control independently from each other. This is useful if you know you will be in one room a lot more than the others, or at certain times. 

You can also split out one room and have two thermostats controls, if the room is big enough. This could be really helpful if you have an open-plan space, such as a kitchen diner, that you want to use in different ways.

Although you can have underfloor heating fitted in most places, it might mean a lot of upheaval and high costs, especially if it is being fitted retrospectively to an existing room. 

The floor height might need to be raised, which will affect the door and ceiling height, or the current flooring might need to be ripped up. All of this will mean more work for the installer, which adds to labour costs. 

Larger rooms or those that aren't insulated might require bigger systems or ones with higher wattages, which will cost more. The owners we spoke to generally see it as a luxury extra, rather than a home-heating essential. 

Our guide to costs and installation details exactly what's involved in installing underfloor heating, and what can hike the cost. 

We'd also recommend speaking to a heating engineer to help you decide whether the work and cost of underfloor heating will make it prohibitive for your home.

You can also use Which? Trusted Traders to find a recommended installer in your area. All traders that bear our logo have been through extensive background checks, done by experts who have previously worked at Trading Standards.

Should I get electric or water underfloor heating? 

Most of the people we asked who have underfloor heating have an electric system (65%), while 35% have water. 

Generally speaking, the type of system you install will depend on:

  • the size and shape of the room you're heating
  • whether there is insulation
  • whether you're installing the system to an existing floor or as part of a whole refurbishment or new-build project. 

These elements will also all affect the wattage of system you get.

A water-based underfloor heating system generally requires more space for the pipes, and is more complex and costly to install. It's also tricker than electric to install retrospectively, as you'll need more room for the pipes.

Electric systems, like the one below, tend to be easier and cheaper to fit, but are more expensive to run. Some systems can even be installed by competent DIYers, although you'll need to hire a qualified electrician to wire the system up.

Similarly, it's best to call in a professional to set up a water-pipe system. 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 and heating system.

Find out more about the differences between installing water and electric underfloor heating.

Can underfloor heating replace radiators? 

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Is underfloor heating efficient? 

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Does underfloor heating cost a lot to run? 

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How long does underfloor heating take to warm up? 

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Can you install underfloor heating yourself? 

Some off-the-shelf products are available for competent DIYers to fit. However, this is better suited to electric underfloor heating than water underfloor heating.

If it's not fitted correctly, there is more of a risk of a fault occurring – which you might not discover until you've laid the flooring on top. To avoid this, make sure you follow the supplied manual and test the system before it's covered.

If you do damage the system while installing it, you can buy repair kits for around £20. Visit our page on underfloor heating cost and installation to find out more about what the installation involves.

Can underfloor heating systems be repaired? 

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Underfloor heating pros: owners' comments 

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Underfloor heating cons: owners' comments 

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*(In November 2017 we surveyed 104 Which? members with underfloor heating about their experiences with it in the last five years. All quotes and comments are from when we spoke to 177 people in August 2015).