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1 October 2020

Underfloor heating pros and cons

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 to run.
Bathroom with rug 484213
Liz Ransome-Croker

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. We explore all the pros and cons.

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. 

Pros and cons from owners of underfloor heating

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. 

However, there are some things you need to weigh up to decide whether it's right for you. 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.

It can be installed in most homes

You can get underfloor heating fitted in pretty much any home and under almost any type of flooring.

Underfloor heating can 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 is also possible to install it in a new-build or retrospectively.

Many of the owners we've spoken to said they got underfloor heating 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.

You can 'zone' different rooms and areas

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 thermostat 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.

It can be costly and cause upheaval

Although you can have underfloor heating fitted in most places, it might mean a lot of upheaval and high costs, especially if it's 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 underfloor heating costs details more on this, but we recommend speaking to a heating engineer as a first port of call, to 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.

Electric vs water underfloor heating

Water-based underfloor heating generally requires more space for the pipes, and is more complex and costly to install. It's also trickier than electric systems to install retrospectively.

Electric underfloor heating systems tend to be easier and cheaper to fit, but are more expensive to run. Competent DIYers can even install some systems themselves, although you'll need to hire a qualified electrician to wire up the system.

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

Generally speaking, the type of underfloor heating 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 on an existing floor 
  • whether you're installing as part of a whole refurbishment or new-build project. 

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

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?

Yes, 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.

Installing it yourself could cause damage

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.

For electric systems, if you do damage it while installing it, you can buy repair kits for around £20.

Can underfloor heating systems be repaired?

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