Over the years, underfloor heating has become a popular addition for the homeowner looking for both luxury and energy-saving benefits.
A study from 2018 revealed underfloor heating was third on the list of the top 10 features that millennials wanted in their dream home. It’s also increasingly popular in the construction industry, particularly for projects that involve converting office spaces into residential properties.
The latest figures show the market for underfloor heating grew by 6% in 2017, with a similar increase predicted for the following year. Energy-efficient insulation materials such as XENERGY Styrofoam have helped drive this growth.
To capitalise on the rise in demand, this short guide provides information on how to install and insulate underfloor heating systems.
How to correctly install underfloor heating systems
For the homeowner to reap the benefits of underfloor heating, it’s important that the room in which the system will be installed is already well insulated with basics like double-glazed windows and strong wall insulation.
The room must also have suitable floorings, such as stone, wood, marble or tile—these materials work particularly well with underfloor heating in bathrooms. Concrete can be an attractive material for potential homebuyers as it not only conducts heat well but is durable and can be treated to look like most other types of flooring. New underfloor heating systems can also work with thin carpet and some types of laminate flooring.
There are two main types of underfloor heating systems:
- Electric underfloor heating (a dry system)
- Water underfloor heating (a wet system)
Electric underfloor heating
These systems use wires or electrical heating sheets placed under the floor. They usually take up to two days to install and involve:
- Pulling up the floor and laying the mat or wires above a layer of insulation
- Fitting a floor sensor that connects to the thermostat
- Connecting the system to the main electricity supply (a qualified electrician needs to do this)
- Covering the mats in a layer of screed to help the system generate heat more quickly
Electric underfloor heating is cheaper and easier to install than water underfloor heating but more expensive to run. Homeowners are sometimes tempted to find DIY shortcuts to install this system themselves; however, it’s important to remind anyone thinking of doing this that they leave it to the professionals due to the dangers involved.
Water underfloor heating
This circulates warm water through a network of plastic pipes installed under the floor. Fitting these systems is far more complicated than electric heating and must be done by a professional contractor. It involves:
- Pulling up the floor and laying the pipes
- Connecting the heating system to the boiler system (an electrician must do this)
- Once the pipes are safely fastened, adding a layer of screed, which needs up to seven days to dry
As the pipes are bigger than wires, these systems are more suited to larger rooms. And because they can take up to a week to install, homeowners may prefer to have them fitted as part of a bigger renovation project or when they are already getting work done to their flooring.
A spokesperson from Panel Systems said: “There’s little aftercare needed for an underfloor heating system, so even though it can take a while to install, the customer shouldn’t have to worry about it once the process is complete.”
Installers may also choose to use an increasingly popular home-improvement feature — the smart thermostat. This can:
- Determine how long the underfloor heating needs to stay on to warm up the home
- Readjust the temperature based on the weather conditions outside
- Recognise when someone is in the property or on their way home and turn on the system accordingly
- Control underfloor heating room by room
Findings show this technology can cut energy bills by between 20% and 30%, which is another impressive selling point.
“Providing the height of the room and level the floor is appropriate, we recommend using XEnergy Styrofoam insulation boards,” the Panel Systems spokesperson said.
“The insulation boards act as a barrier to reflect the heat and keep it in the room, rather than wasting energy back down through the floor.”
XENERGY Styrofoam is the recommended material to use in conjunction with underfloor heating systems as it has excellent compressive strength and efficient thermal properties.
“This material is compatible with both water and electric underfloor heating systems as it’s lightweight with a high impressive compressive strength, high efficiency and excellent thermal insulation properties,” the Panel Systems spokesperson said.
XENERGY Styrofoam can also be machined—using a computer numerical control (CNC) machine—to accommodate water pipes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.
What are the benefits of underfloor heating?
To prepare for inquiries from customers looking for an alternative to radiators, installers must understand the central advantages of underfloor heating.
Panel Systems says: “It’s likely that underfloor heating systems are highly favoured because they tend to be quite energy-efficient. They are relatively low-power and tend to distribute heat a lot more quickly.
“They can be very effective because they heat the whole floor, whereas a radiator only heats the area surrounding it and can leave cold spots in the room.”
Traditional radiators must reach temperatures of between 65°C and 75°C to heat an entire room. Underfloor heating only needs to run from 30°C to 40°C to distribute heat evenly. This heat flows upwards from the floor, reaches every corner and even stays inside the room when windows are open. It’s reported that this can cut energy bills by anything up to 30%.
A greener home is an added perk for property owners, and research shows it’s a huge benefit for landlords who need to abide by environmental regulations and provide tenants with an energy performance certificate (EPC).
As well as delivering a high level of comfort, underfloor heating is hidden away. Parents needn’t worry that their child will burn themselves, which may be a fear with radiators. And having the benefit of controlling the heat to a specific temperature means the floors won’t overheat.
Because underfloor heating isn’t visible, homeowners have more freedom when it comes to design. This is not always the case with radiators, which often restrict space and can ruin aesthetically pleasing decor.
And because they contain little moisture, underfloor heating systems help eliminate dust mites, reducing the amount of dust circulating the house as a result. This is an added benefit to people with asthma or allergies.
“The insulation boards should act as a vapour barrier. XENERGY Styrofoam has a closed-cell structure, which will prevent any moisture passing through it,” said Panel Systems.
Previously considered a niche feature, underfloor heating is now known as a mainstream home addition due to the many benefits it provides, and the market for these heating systems continues to grow. Having extra knowledge of this in-demand product is a great opportunity for installers to expand their business and make recommendations to customers.