Underfloor heating is pretty much a necessity in a house these days, and this is reflected in their growing popularity.
Underfloor heating systems are generally more energy-efficient than radiators at heating a room, so you’ll save money whilst keeping your home warm. They’re also, as the name implies, hidden away underneath the floor, so they’re not an eyesore, unlike a radiator.
However, just getting an underfloor heating system is not the end of the conversation, as there are two types; electric or water-based (sometimes known as wet underfloor heating).
There’s quite a bit of confusing information out there as to what to go for. As we'll demonstrate, not all underfloor heating systems are made equal, so we aim to clear up the confusion within this blog.
How does an underfloor heating system work?
As we’ve already discussed, there are two types of underfloor heating systems; water-based, and electric, but they work in largely the same ways.
They both use radiant technology to heat up the floor, and as we know from physics 101, hot air rises, so the room is heated from the floor up. It’s a really efficient way to heat a room, as heat isn’t just transferred into the air, but into objects and people in the room.
Heating from the floor isn’t just efficient, either. It removes the need for a bulky radiator system, so it gives you a greater level of design freedom for decorating or furniture placement in a room, which can be fantastic if you’re going for an open plan design.
Water-based vs electric: What you need to know
Here are the main differences between a water-based and electric underfloor heating system.
- Heated using electricity with wires connected to the mains supply.
- Typically easier to fit than a water based system.
- Only really suitable for smaller rooms or renovation projects.
- Is placed on a layer of the floor.
- Installation costs are typically cheaper, but running costs are typically more expensive.
- Prone to faults.
- Can require regular maintenance.
- Heated using pipes connected to mains/boiler systems so that warm water is circulated through the floor spaces.
- Water is circulated at lower temperatures than radiators
- System is easy to run.
- Works well with a variety of different floor surfaces.
- In wet areas, floors will dry faster.
- Compared to radiator heating systems, there’s minimal air movement, resulting in less movement of dust mites and other allergens.
- Lower running costs than radiators and electric underfloor heating.
- Initial installation costs are typically more expensive, but this tends to be offset by the savings in running costs.
When should I install an electric underfloor heating system?
Electric underfloor heating systems are typically easier to install, and the installation costs are typically cheaper than water-based underfloor heating systems. However, in terms of economies of scale, electric systems aren’t as efficient as water based systems.
You might consider getting an electric underfloor heating system installed if the project you’re undertaking is more of a renovation rather than a new build, as there’s less work that goes into installing the system.
In fact, some electric underfloor heating systems are able to be installed in as little as thirty minutes.
You may also find that if the area that you’re looking to install underfloor heating in is a smaller one (say, for example, one or two rooms of a house) that electric underfloor heating is the better option for your project.
As mentioned, however, because they aren’t as energy efficient, they won’t be desirable for heating larger areas or an entire floor of a house, and any savings you make in installation costs will be lost again in heating costs.
They are also prone to faults, and can often require regular maintenance.
When should I install a water-based underfloor heating system?
Wet underfloor heating is generally the better option if your project is a new build and the system will be the primary heat source throughout the house. While the installation cost of this type of heating is higher, running costs are lower, balancing out the initial investment.
When installed properly, there’s little to no maintenance needed for a wet underfloor heating system, whereas with electric heating systems, there may be more need for maintenance as the system can be prone to faults.
Water based systems do take more time to install than electric based systems, as there’s the fitting of pipes to consider, and also there’s extra time for testing the system (for things like water pressure) that need to be factored in.
You may also need to factor in pouring a layer of insulating concrete screed.
These time and labour costs are offset by an efficient heating system that saves you money and requires very little maintenance.
Electric systems are better for smaller projects and can be installed faster and cheaper, but have higher running costs, and simply put, aren't as efficient.
Water-based systems are better for new build projects, especially where either a whole floor or the entire house is going to be heated. Installation is more complicated, more costly and takes longer, but ultimately requires less maintenance and is cheaper to run.
Simply put, you'll have fewer headaches with a water-based heating system. There are very few situations in which you'd choose electric underfloor heating over water-based heating systems.
Whichever underfloor heating system you go for, it’s worth considering what your needs are for your home or your project.
However, if a water-based underfloor heating system seems like the best option for you, then we at Underfloor Heating Sheffield can help.
We have experience in all types of water-based underfloor heating systems, including supplying, designing and installation. We have over 30 years of combined experience, and there's nothing that we haven't seen or dealt with before.
All of our underfloor heating services can cater for residential or commercial projects. No job is too big or too small, so feel free to  get in touch!;