Underfloor Heating: Electrical

When people talk about underfloor heating they are usually thinking of water based underfloor heating: coils of pipework under the floor leading back to a central heating boiler. But there is a second type of underfloor heating which is growing in popularity as it matures and that’s electric underfloor heating.

Many of the advantages of Underfloor Heating are largely the same whether it is water based or electrical.

There are no radiators to clutter up the walls and because there’s a gentle, even rise of heat from all over the floor there are no heat gradients and convection currents that you get with radiators.

Easier Installation

Things do change when you look at installation and running costs though. Because most of the electrical underfloor heating elements can be put down on a concrete or wood sub floor, with just thermally insulating matting between them, there’s no need to dig up floors or floorboards to lay the heating down.

This is in contrast to Water Based Underfloor Heating where the pipes need to be buried a couple of inches below a concrete screed, making them very difficult and expensive to fit in houses. Water based underfloor heating is much more suited to new builds or complete renovations.

Running Costs Debate

In terms of running costs electrical solar underfloor heating is likely to be more expensive to run than water based. However this could change as energy prices fluctuate, and if you could power the underfloor heating from photo-voltaic solar panels charging a set of batteries then you would have no running costs anyway.

As mentioned above installation is relatively easy. After laying the heating element down on the thermal insulating layer, underlay and flooring are put on top.

The flooring can be almost anything, including Carpet, but it is important to make sure that both the underlay and the carpet, tiles, Laminate, vinyl or whatever you choose are marked as suitable for electric underfloor heating.

Different Electric Element Formats

There are many different types of electric element on the market and there is not yet any one leading type or manufacturer. Some are in the form of mats with electric elements interspersed with supporting elements of fibre or plastic. Others are flat ribbons of multi-core cable set in a supporting plastic grid. There does not seem to be any particular advantage to any one type so far.

Another advantage of electric underfloor heating is that it can be installed in one room or many rooms. It is difficult and expensive to put a water based underfloor heating system in for just one room. The electrical connections can be made by a qualified electrician so there isn’t even a need for specialist installers for electric underfloor heating.

Final Consideration

There’s only one other disadvantage with electric underfloor heating: there can be problems with the heating elements if certain items are left on the floor for a long time. The problem is with items that do not allow heat to pass through easily such as piles of books, very heavy rugs, piles of clothes or bedding and very soft furniture like bean bags.

While this is something that can easily be worked around for most people, it certainly puts teenagers’ bedrooms off limits for electric underfloor heating.

See Also
Underfloor heating pipes
Underfloor Heating: Water Based
Boy playing on floor
Underfloor Insulation