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Underfloor heating guide

You might think that underfloor heating is more of a luxury than a necessity. But it’s an incredibly efficient way of heating your home. So, how much does underfloor heating cost? Is it worth it and is it right for your home?

Find out everything you need to know in our underfloor heating guide.

You might think that underfloor heating is more of a luxury than a necessity. But it’s an incredibly efficient way of heating your home. So, how much does underfloor heating cost? Is it worth it and is it right for your home?

Find out everything you need to know in our underfloor heating guide.

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
Last Updated
20 JUNE 2023
7 min read
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What is underfloor heating?

Underfloor heating (UFH) is an increasingly popular way to heat a home, whether you’re self-building or renovating a property.

It’s a cost-effective, energy-efficient system, heating your home from the ground up, basically turning your whole floor into a giant radiator.

Plus, nothing beats the luxury of a lovely warm floor in the cold winter months, especially first thing in the morning.

How does underfloor heating work?

Underfloor heating delivers heat either through a series of water pipes or electric cables installed under the floor.

Unlike radiators, which use convection currents to heat the air around them, underfloor heating distributes the warmth evenly throughout the room using both convection and radiant heat.

Heating a room from the ground up gives you better comfort levels and puts paid to cold spots and draughts.

Your boiler also won’t need to work as hard, which could help save you money on your heating bills. That’s because underfloor heating usually runs at a lower temperature of about 40°C compared with around 65°C for a typical radiator system.

Like regular central heating, UFH is controlled by a thermostat that allows you to manage the temperature settings for each room.

Is underfloor heating expensive?

The exact cost of underfloor heating will vary, depending on the system you choose, the age of your property and whether it’s a new-build or renovation project.

The time taken to complete the installation is also an important consideration. The longer it takes, the more you’re likely to pay in labour charges. You’ll also need to consider the cost of materials per square metre.

Installation costs could range anywhere from £800 for a single room to around £8,000 for a three-bedroom house.

Although they may be expensive to install, UFH systems are generally cheaper to run than a traditional radiator system. In modern homes with a condensing boiler, UFH can be up to 25% more energy-efficient and up to 40% more efficient when running from a heat pump.

According to Checkatrade, it costs around £41 a month to run UFH on a 10m² floor area for up to four hours a day.

It’s also worth noting that underfloor heating systems have a lifespan of more than 50 years, while radiators typically only last between eight and 12 years before becoming inefficient.

What are the different types of underfloor heating systems?

There are two types of UFH:

  • Hot water (wet systems)
  • Electric (dry systems).

Warm water – wet underfloor heating

Wet UFH systems use warm water to heat your home, in the same way that radiators do. A series of pipes are installed under the floor, embedded in a type of cement-sand mixture called screed, which is used to even out the surface.

Wet systems can be connected to any type of boiler. They also work well with renewable energy technologies and can be connected to a solar water-heating system or heat pumps.

Electric – dry underfloor heating

Dry system UFH consists of a series of electrical wires or heating mats, installed under your flooring on top of a layer of floor insulation.

The wires are then connected to a thermostat and your mains electricity supply.

Dry system UFH can be laid anywhere you have a power supply.

  • Loose-wired cables are flexible and can be laid however you want them. They’re a good choice for oddly shaped rooms with awkward corners.
  • Mats are good for large areas and regular-shaped rooms.

Which is right for me – electric or water underfloor heating?

Not sure whether to go for electric or water? The table below shows which underfloor heating system might be best suited to various property types and rooms:

Electric Water
Renovations and retrofitting (adding UFH to an existing floor) New builds and extensions
Small spaces Large spaces
Bathrooms and upstairs rooms Conservatories and living rooms

With regards to cost, a wet system is usually more expensive to install. It’s a big job and could be complicated. However, it’s much cheaper to run than a dry system, so is a good choice if you’re planning to install UFH throughout the house.

What’s the best type of flooring for underfloor heating?

Natural stone and ceramic tiles

These are considered the best types of flooring for UFH. Like the screed used to embed your wet system pipes, stone flooring absorbs and radiates heat well. Stone might take longer to heat up, depending on its thickness, but it also remains warmer for longer when the heating goes off. As we all know, cold stone and tiles can be really chilly to walk on, so you’ll quickly feel the benefits of a warmer floor.

Vinyl and laminate flooring

Not all vinyl and laminates can be used with UFH, so check before you commit. Some flooring companies have their own UFH systems. You could also get foil mat electric systems specifically designed for laminate flooring.

Wooden floors

Solid wooden floors aren’t generally recommended for UFH. As a natural material they can shrink and warp in reaction to temperature changes.

If you’re dead set on wooden floors and UFH, then engineered timber boards are a more suitable choice. They’re made up of layers of wood and are less likely to be affected by the heat of UFH.

Carpets

Although not the best choice, some carpets can be used with UFH as long as they have a tog value of less than 2.5. The tog value measures how much thermal insulation they provide. With carpets, it takes a while for the heat to come through, so they’re not the most efficient option.

Can underfloor heating be used to heat an entire house?

If your house is well-insulated then yes, warm water underfloor heating could be used as your main heating source. You’ll need get a heat-loss calculation done by a heating engineer to work out how much heating is needed and if UFH would be suitable for your whole house.

You’ll need to get a heat-loss calculation done by a heating engineer. This will reveal how much heating will be needed and if UFH is suitable for your whole house.

Is underfloor heating worth it?

There are both upsides and downsides to underfloor heating, which you’ll have to weigh up before deciding whether it’s right for you.The benefits of UFH compared to traditional radiators include:

  • Cheaper running costs – if used with a condenser boiler, wet systems are around 25% more energy efficient than radiators.
  • Even heating over large areas – UFH is great for heating large areas. It distributes an even heat around the room and could help eliminate draughts.
  • More eco-friendly – UFH systems work well with renewable energy sources. Warm water UFH is around 40% more efficient than radiators if used with ground-source or air-source heat pumps.
  • More space – as there’s no need for bulky radiators, you’ll have more wall and floor space. This will give you more flexibility to design your home the way you want.
  • Safer – radiators can get really hot. With UFH there are no hot surfaces or sharp corners to worry about if you have kids running around the house.
  • Healthier – UFH radiates warmth, which means there’s less air movement and dust particles floating around, making it a healthier choice for allergy sufferers. It’s also more hygienic than radiators, which gather dust and can be difficult to clean.
  • Comfortable – who wouldn’t love a warm floor underfoot in the middle of winter? UFH radiates a gentle and natural heat, giving your home a wonderfully warm and luxurious feel.
  • Added value – if you’re selling your home, UFH can be a definite plus-point as it appeals to many buyers.

What are the downsides to underfloor heating?

  • Installation – the initial cost of buying UFH can be expensive. It can also be time-consuming and messy to install.
  • Slow warm-up – UFH can take longer to heat up than radiators.
  • Changes to floor height – retrofitting UFH will raise the floor level. This could make the space feel smaller.
  • Heat loss – if your house isn’t well-insulated it might not be enough to keep it comfortably warm.

Can I have underfloor heating and radiators?

Yes. You can run UFH alongside your existing central heating system, especially if you’ve only installed it in a couple of rooms.

Most UFH systems have programmable thermostats that give you control of the heat settings. Not only can you adjust the temperature in different areas of your house, you can even ‘zone’ different parts of a room if it’s open-plan.

Some systems also have smart thermostats so you can control your UFH from outside the home.

Frequently asked questions

What temperature should underfloor heating be set at?

It depends how warm and toasty you like it. But, generally speaking, 21°C is considered the optimum temperature for a lounge or living space. Ideally, bedrooms should be slightly cooler, at around 18°C.

How long does underfloor heating take to warm up?

From stone cold, a wet system can take two or three hours to warm up, whereas an electric system heats up much more quickly. But it also depends on the type of floor covering you have.

A stone floor is the best conductor of heat and can take 15 to 30 minutes to warm up. A wooden floor, on the other hand, can take up to an hour. During winter, it could help to keep your heating on constantly at a reduced level.

Can I install electric underfloor heating myself?

If you’re a competent DIYer, you may want to install electric underfloor mats or cables yourself. But, to comply with building regulations, a qualified electrician must fit the thermostat and do the wiring.

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