WHAT IS UNDERFLOOR HEATING?
Underfloor heating has been around since the days of ancient Rome, when fires were
lit below flooring to transmit heat around a home.
Modern underfloor heating works on the same principle, but without fires under your
floors! It turns your floors into super-sized radiators to provide an entire
room with heat from the ground upwards, rather than from the walls inwards, as happens
with traditional radiator-based central heating.
HOW DOES UNDERFLOOR HEATING WORK?
Traditional central heating relies on pumping hot water around your home into radiators
which then give out heat into your rooms.
Heat from radiators mainly travels around the room on warm air currents, usually moving
from the radiator up to the highest parts of the room where the air cools and drops
to floor level.
This creates an effect where the higher parts of the room are the warmest, so radiators
are sited where they will develop the most efficient air currents.
With underfloor heating, the room floor becomes the radiator.
Hot water travelling through pipes laid in the floor keep the floor warm and this,
in turn, heats the air in the room from ground level.
Heat rises naturally up the room, warming the lower levels first, keeping your feet
and body warm but allowing cooler air at head level for comfort.
Because the air currents rise more efficiently from the floor upwards, the room temperature
can be maintained around 2-3oC lower than with traditional radiators, saving
on fuel costs.
UNDERFLOOR HEATING ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
Traditional central heating with proper thermostatic control only warms a room on
Radiators take a relatively short time to get hot and transmit this heat to a room,
so they can be set to come on and go off at fixed times during the day.
However, the rapid warming up process is fuel intensive and so wastes energy.
Underfloor heating can take up to 12 hours to bring a room up to temperature, so it
needs to be on constantly during winter months to make sure a room is warm when you
want it to be.
Continuous heating avoids the wasteful repeated warming/cooling process of radiators,
but means underfloor heating is not suited to rooms that only require heat for
a few hours each day, such as bedrooms or bathrooms.
Traditional radiators can respond quickly to the daily (sometimes hourly) changes
in temperature that we have in the UK, particularly in the South.
Underfloor heating is more suited to rooms requiring constant heat, e.g. North facing
rooms, or rooms which don't benefit from the effect of sunshine through large windows
or patio doors. This is due to the time it takes to heat up a floor.
Traditional radiators are relatively small in comparison to the overall room size,
so they require a supply of very hot water from a boiler to achieve sufficient heat
output into a room.
This means that boilers must run at higher operating temperatures (typically producing
a water flow at around 80oC) using more fuel and increasing the stress
on the heating system.
It also makes balancing the system around the home tricky, as each radiator needs
a share of the supply of hot water produced by the boiler.
Underfloor heating uses a flow temperature of typically 35-45oC, so less
energy is required to provide the same temperature in a room.
This lower operating temperature makes it much more suited to new heating technologies
such as heat pumps, as these typically produce heat
at 35-55oC, depending on the heat source.
Because underfloor heating doesn't need wall mounted radiators this will free
room space for other use. Also, the dust-traps often formed behind and under radiators
Underfloor heating works best with flooring that transmits heat efficiently, such
as stone, ceramic tiles and engineered wood finishes.
Carpet is a natural insulator; underlay and carpets must be chosen carefully so you
don't trap heat in the floor instead of releasing it into the room.
Still confused about underfloor heating?
We're qualified in underfloor heating design and installation, so call or e-mail us
now for more advice or a free home survey.