Water v Electric - Your Under-Floor Heating Dilemma Solved!
10th November 2014
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You want under-floor heating put into your home or business but do not feel you have all the information to make an informed choice!  Chris from The Works M&B Ltd in Barnstaple offers some advice on water or electric under-floor heating systems.

Under-floor heating systems - which can sit beneath stone, tile, wooden or even carpeted surfaces - will help to keep cold floors and rooms toasty, and can offer an alternative to using radiators to deliver central heating without some of the ‘cold’ spots you sometimes get.  It’s also worth noting that retro-fitting underfloor heating can be achieved so you don’t need to be constructing a new house to consider these options.

There are two main types of floor heating to choose from: electric under-floor heating, which is also known as a dry system, and water, pump-driven, under-floor-heating, or a wet system.

Electric under-floor heating

A series of electric wires are installed beneath or within your flooring as a means of heating an area or room - a cold, tiled bathroom floor, for example.

The electric system you install will depend on the size of the room and the type of flooring it has - 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.

The electric heating sheets or cables are fitted beneath the flooring, and usually on top of a layer of screed (to ensure the surface is completely flat) and a layer of floor insulation (to keep the heating source travelling upwards rather than down). 

A qualified electrician will need to connect your system up to your electric mains supply, and fit a sensor that connects to the thermostat. This allows you to control the temperature and pre-set the system to turn on or off

Because electric systems are generally quite thin, they're easier and less hassle to install in an existing room than a wet heating system, which requires space for pipe work and could involve the floor being raised. Prices for roll-out under-floor heating mats start from around £75 per square metre (or less the more metres you're buying).  You can buy a loose-fit kit from around £100 per square metre.

You'll also need to factor in the cost of insulation board, screed and heating controls, as well as an electrician's call out and labour charge.

While electric under-floor heating is cheaper to install than a wet system, it's more expensive to run - particularly as it's not conducive to use in combination with an off-peak electricity tariff such as Economy 7, for example (unless you only want to run your under-floor heating at night). 

For that reason, the Energy Saving Trust doesn't recommend this form of under-floor heating for large areas.

Water under-floor heating

A water under-floor heating system, like its dry electric under-floor counterpart, can also sit beneath stone, tile, wooden or even carpeted surfaces.  It offers an alternative to radiators in bathrooms, kitchens or even an entire house. 

With a water-based under-floor heating system, a series of pipes connected to your boiler circulate warm water throughout the floor to heat the space (Just like radiators).

Because the heat emitted from a under-floor system is more evenly distributed than a single radiator, the system can use water at a lower temperature, combine this with individual timed digital room stats, this  makes it a more efficient way of heating your home.

There needs to be enough space to fit the piping, meaning you might have to lower the floor level  for insulation/pipework to be installed not always cost effective.  For this reason, water-fed systems can best suited to new floor constructions and extensions where the floor itself can be designed to hold the pipe work, and be insulated to ensure the heating doesn't escape downwards. 

There are different rates of responsiveness and efficiency depending on what the pipes are laid in.  It recommends using pipes in screed, although an insulated suspended joist timber floor can achieve good results.  A qualified engineer will be able to advise you on the best type of under-floor heating for your room size and shape.  They will also need to test your boiler to check it can support the system.

A water under-floor heating system is more expensive to fit than an electric one and you'll need a heating engineer or under-floor heating specialist to complete the installation, which can run into thousands of pounds if you're installing a whole property system.

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) says water under-floor heating is typically more energy efficient than radiators and therefore less to run - though the savings will depend on how energy efficient your home is.  The savings are pretty modest though.

Chris and Seb at The Works M&B Ltd are qualified plumbers and domestic electricians and they are  always willing to provide quotes and share advice on the best option for your home.  They take into account the most suitable energy supply and the 'greenest' product allowing you to save money in the long run!  Call Chris or Seb on 01271 308104 to talk through your project. 

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Sarah E

Member since: 10th July 2012

I'm Sarah and I live just outside Barnstaple near Umberleigh.
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