Pros and cons of underfloor heating
This guide is intended to provide general guidance only. It is not intended to give you advice on your personal financial circumstances. You should seek independent professional advice if you’re unsure about anything mentioned in this guide or what choices to make.
Underfloor heating is a great way to keep your home warm. It’s lovely to walk on, it distributes heat evenly around each corner of the room, and it frees your walls from radiators, making more space for paintings, shelf units or even picture windows - or allowing you to create a minimalist look if you wish.
However, it can also be very expensive to install, particularly in older houses, so you may need to think long and hard before making a decision.
Why don’t more people have it in their homes? We look at the pros and cons to help you decide whether it’s right for your property.
What are the good things about underfloor heating systems?
- Comfort! Your feet will be lovely and warm, so you can walk around barefoot all year - it’s particularly welcoming in the bathroom when you step out of the bath or shower
- It distributes heat evenly and consistently around each room
- A suitably sized unit can heat a larger area than an individual radiator, and works at a lower temperature, so it could reduce your heating bills
- Less wastage – your floors will stay warm even if the windows are open or the room is very draughty
- It’s hidden – so it doesn’t spoil your décor or take up space with ugly, bulky radiators
- It can be installed below stone, tile, wood or carpeted floors (as long as the carpet isn’t too thick - a 1.5 tog is generally considered the maximum suitable thickness)
- It might enhance your home’s selling price: underfloor heating has a reputation for being state of the art and high spec and could attract buyers looking for a luxurious property
So what’s not so good about it?
- The main problem is the cost of underfloor heating: it can be expensive and difficult to install – so even if your bills are lower, you’re unlikely to recoup your initial outlay. In older buildings creating the right conditions under the floor can take time and cause major upheaval
- It can take a long time to warm up, so it’s vital to use a timer to make sure rooms are warm enough when you want to use them
- You can’t use it under some items of furniture or fittings, which might restrict the way you arrange your furniture; in fact, if you want to install underfloor heating throughout your home, you might have to get rid of some large, heavy items altogether
- If you use a smaller system, you may find you have a lovely warm floor but the rest of the room is still chilly, so you need radiators anyway
Which is the best underfloor heating for my home – electric or water based?
You can choose either electric underfloor heating (known as a ‘dry’ system) or water-based heating (this is known as ‘wet’ heating). Our table lets you look through the pros and cons of each, to help you decide which might suit you better.
What will underfloor heating cost to install?
Installation costs can vary hugely, depending on whether you choose an electric or water-based system, the number of rooms you want to heat, whether you’re fitting a new-build home, extension or an older building, and what kind of flooring you have.
Prices for roll-out mats for underfloor electric heating start at about £180 for 10 square metres*. Plus you’ll need to add in the costs of insulation board, screed and heating controls. You’ll also need to pay a qualified electrician to link it to your electricity supply (see ‘Can I install it myself?’ below).
The price of installing a ‘wet’ system can vary according to factors like whether the room you’re heating is on the ground floor, or how close it is to the boiler. However, it will almost certainly be more expensive than laying electric mats for a ‘dry’ system.
Do I need a timer?
Yes – underfloor heating takes a while to get going, so you’ll need to set the timer to get it started in good time before you want to enjoy its warmth.
Can I install it myself?
Before you invest in any underfloor heating equipment you should consult a specialist to help you decide which system is right for your home. They will also explain the difficulties and costs involved if you want to install it yourself.
It’s possible to carry out electric underfloor heating installation yourself if you’re confident with DIY techniques. However, if you choose a water-based system you will need a qualified professional to lay the pipes and connect them to your boiler. They will also need to lay insulation and screed.
Whichever system you choose, it should be linked to the electricity supply by a qualified electrician, who will also need to connect a sensor that works the thermostat.
How else can I make my home warmer?
Insulation is key – if you insulate your roof and walls and improve your heating system, your home will be warmer and you could save around £300 a year. What’s more, you’ll cut your home’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by around 1.5 tonnes – so you’re helping the planet, too.
Some top tips:
- Fill that cavity! Cavity wall insulation can cut around £115 off your heating bill each year
- Get draught excluders for outside doors, windows and letterboxes
- Replace all your old windows with double glazing – it could save you around £135 each year
- If your boiler’s more than 15 years old, look into replacing it with a new A-rated condensing boiler
How can I cut my energy costs?
Underfloor heating installation is expensive, so you may want to find other ways to save on your energy bills. To start with, make sure your home and all your electrical appliances are working as efficiently as possible. Here are some suggestions:
- When you boil a kettle, only use as much water as you need
- Turn appliances off at the wall – don’t leave them on standby
- Use energy-saving light bulbs
- Defrost your freezer regularly
- Slip an insulating jacket on your hot water tank – you could save around £35 a year
- When using your washing machine, never set it higher than 30˚
See our full energy saving guide for more details.
It also makes sense to consider switching providers. No matter which energy company you’re currently with, it’s always worth checking the market regularly to see if you could save money by switching.
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