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Underfloor Heating: Water Based

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 30 Mar 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Underfloor Heating Pipes Water Based

Underfloor heating is getting more and more popular these days and there are some good reasons why.

Underfloor Heating Benefits .…

The even spread of heat means that there are fewer convection currents around the rooms, the floor is pleasantly warm underfoot and the lower temperatures make it more economical to run. These lower temperatures also mean that underfloor heating will complement the temperature output levels of ecologically friendly energy sources such as solar water panels and ground source and air source heat pumps.

Interior designers like Underfloor Heating because there are no radiators on the walls to get in the way of decoration or furniture. In addition, there is very little impact on heating costs of having high ceilings, because the heat rises from the floor, so it gives architects freedom to design with more expansive spaces.

…. and the Disadvantages

It's not all roses though. Although the water doesn't have to be heated to such a high temperature (45 to 55 degrees as opposed to the 90 to 95 degrees of radiators) there is a lot more water to heat up. The pipes that carry the warm water are run back and forth across the floor of every room to ensure good coverage so the amount of water in the system is usually two to three times the volume of a central heating radiator network.

It's also takes longer to change the temperature with underfloor heating as the thermal mass is large and the heat output low. The idea is to keep the heating on permanently except in the summer and only lower the temperature a little, say three degrees, if you are going out for the day or overnight. Both these aspects can mean lower running costs than expected.

Cost and Effort of Installation

Water based underfloor heating is also undeniably more expensive and difficult to put in than a traditional radiator based system. Firstly you need to lift all the floors (if you're adding it to an existing house), lay the coils and then replace the floors, all of which entails a major labour cost.

Secondly, all the pipework in each room needs to have two connections to a central point where a manifold collects and distributes warm water out and cold water in. With a radiator based system there only needs to be one or two rings run around the house and the pipes can be attached to the wall, they don't necessarily have to be installed under the floor.

However if you are in the process of building or completely renovating a house, the extra expense of installing water based underfloor heating over a traditional system will not be as great. It is hard to add water based underfloor heating to a traditional system, for an extension or conservatory for example.

Suitable Flooring for Underfloor Heating

Water based underfloor heating will work with most solid flooring materials although you do have to take care with real wood floors. The issue here is the speed at which the timbers are heated up, so as long as you take care with that initial startup it should be ok.

Refer to the manufacturer's instructions if you have them, but Timber Floorboards in an old house ought to be ok as they will be very dry. If there is more than 10% moisture in the wood then you may get warping and other problems.

Ceramic tiles and stone floors perform very well and you can add rugs where you want a softer feel underfoot. Carpet is possible, but take care with the type of carpet and underlay as well as any adhesives used, referring to the manufacturers if in doubt.

You Won’t Regret Installing Water Based Underfloor Heating

However there's no doubt that if you can face the initial investment of installing underfloor heating it will definitely make your life more comfortable and luxurious.

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