Skip Navigation

Ask our experts

Plumbing and Heating

Underfloor Heating

Underfloor Heating thumbnail image

Wayne Gribben is an underfloor heating (UFH) and renewables specialist who designs whole systems for residential properties. He deals directly with customers and plumbing contractors on a daily basis, sizes plans for quotations, designs technical specifications for UFH and commissions the systems. In this article Wayne outlines the pros and cons of UFH and highlights the potential pitfalls in the installation.

Underfloor heating (UFH) has become a popular choice for self-builders in recent years and thanks to new technology it is now even better.

Enjoying the warm feeling underfoot is an attractive proposition when building your own home. But with the combined cost of product and fitting being two or three times the price of radiators, many will look at their budget and think, “Is this a luxury I can afford?”.

From my experience the key thing to look at is the longer-term savings you will enjoy – a good UFH system can provide annual savings of approximately 30% compared to traditional systems and the fact that it is virtually maintenance free keeps future costs to a minimum. Not to mention the many advantages that underfloor heating gives you.

IMPORTANCE OF DESIGN

From a design perspective, UFH frees up wall space that would normally be taken up by radiators while, overall, it provides a more effective and efficient heat.

However, key to the success of underfloor heating is ensuring the design is right, particularly given the various options now available – from the best system to use, the installation process, type of floor coverings that will work best, and finding the right heating controls for you. Both the supplier and installer should fully understand your needs by asking you the right questions. Your system should then be tailored accordingly. Detailed below are the things that need to be considered to help you get it right. 

TYPE OF SYSTEM

Electric UFH systems are available which are mostly used in smaller rooms or tend to be installed in one room, such as a bathroom. In my view the most popular UFH for self-builders is the ‘wet’ system that, in simple terms, runs hot water through a series of pipes which transfer the heat to the flooring.

LOCATION AND FUEL TYPES

ufhUFH can be installed in any room in your house, even on upper floors, but both come with their own pros and cons. While suitable for every room in the house, most people opt for UFH on the ground floor, in kitchens and living areas as it is easier to install at this level and provides a faster heat response. When you heat a thermal mass (screed) this contains the heat throughout the day releasing that heat into areas when your thermostats sense the temperature has dropped below your comfort level. Also, aesthetics are more important in these rooms and UFH means no unsightly radiators.

First floor mainly contains bedrooms, so UFH due to its extra cost and how it operates is not used as much. People don’t mind having radiators in these rooms as a cost saving measure; also some of these rooms may lay vacant for some time so they isolate the heat going to them. However, we would still install UFH to most bathrooms and en-suites on first floors.

You will also have to think about the fuel type that will be used to heat your UFH system. The most popular is a simple connection to your oil or gas boiler system but renewable systems such as heat pumps and solar panels can also be connected to work either separately or in conjunction with the more traditional systems and this will help to further reduce costs.

INSTALLATION

The installation process is obviously vital and these days contractors can choose from various screeds and liquid screeds for the ground floor rooms. What you want to find is the perfect balance between a fast installation and one that will deliver the best results in terms of even heat transfer throughout the room. We recommend a hydrite screed which delivers exactly that, but our UFH systems will work with the traditional dry cement and sand flooring or the newly launched liquid screeds.

HEATING CONTROLS

The innovative nature of heating controls has made a significant difference to the success of UFH systems but for the uninitiated this broader choice can mean they end up with a control that doesn’t suit them.

UFH ControlsFor some people the aesthetics are vital, others will look at the functionality aspect, while most will look for a balance between the two. We have a diverse range of heating controls from some of the world’s leading manufacturers that vary from the easy to use to the highly sophisticated. The more intelligent options will even let you control your heating from your mobile phone!

Your UFH system may be installed perfectly, but without the right controls you won’t be getting the best out of it. So this is an area to look at very closely. A lot of it will be dictated by your lifestyle and who and when people will be in the house.

Finding the right combination of all these factors to meet your budget is easier if the supplier / installer can be involved from an early design stage. Certainly, this will help when looking at design aspects such as where the thermostats are going to be placed and also where to site the manifolds to provide easy access to the installer.

Air changes can greatly affect the efficiency of UFH systems as too many allow the heated air to escape. In particular, looking at extractor fans and where they are situated is imperative.

For thermostats, it is essential to have these placed in areas out of direct sunlight and away from areas where there will be other forms of heat, such as close to a cooker, as this will affect the temperature readings and turn your system off unnecessarily.

FLOOR COVERING

Finally, once you have the system installed and the controls working, you will be thinking about the floor coverings. We realise that at the design stage you may not have thought about floor coverings, but it is important to have all the information available for when you do. Your choice will affect how quickly the heat will be dispersed through the room and heavy material like real timber floors or carpets can cut down the heat-up times. You can use tiles, stone and slate but it is important to get advice before deciding on what type and thickness to use. For example, you are advised to avoid carpet over 1.5 tog.

UFH FROM HALDANE FISHER

We insist on the best and have a long-term partnership with REHAU, a company with over 40 years’ experience in this sector. In our view the design stage is the most important part of the process. So Haldane Fisher offer a free service whereby we can quickly draw up plans and prices to give you all the options you need to find a system that integrates into your architectural vision. Our quotations also include product warranty, aftercare service and continuing advice and support for you, your installer and building contractor.

If you have a question you need answered or would like more information, Wayne Gribben can be contacted on direct dial (028)3031 6615 or wayne.gribben@haldane-fisher.com.

Comments (0)

Sorry, there are no comments currently available to display.

Post a comment

Before posting, please take a moment to familiarise yourself with our house rules. All comments are moderated and will not appear immediately. Any information you enter, including email and web addresses, will be displayed on our site if passed by our moderators.