Radiant heating has been increasing in popularity across the UK over the past few decades. A firm favourite in Scandinavia and across Europe, more and more UK families are discovering the benefits and pleasures of underfloor heating in their homes.
Imagine this – you wake up on a snowy morning in January, crawl out of your cosy bed, and set your feet down on the hardwood floor. But you don’t wince or shiver – your floor is warm and toasty. When you enter the kitchen to make your cuppa tea, the tiles are comfortable, gently warming your feet. As you wander from room to room, you don’t encounter any hot or cold pockets, just even comfortable temperatures that make you feel safe and happy as it snows outside.
Doesn’t this sound amazing? It could be your reality if you install radiant heating in the floors of your home. It keeps you warm, safe, and comfortable while saving you money.
Radiant floor heating systems involve the installation of electric coils or water-heated tubes under the surface of your flooring. The heat from these coils or tubes then warm the floors and then radiate throughout the entire room. It creates constant and consistent heating throughout your space, without the cold pockets and draughty areas you’ll experience with standard forced-air systems, which causes the air to rise, cool, and fall back down to the floor.[i]
Did you know that radiant floor heating (RFH) is actually quite ancient? It’s true – Ancient Romans were amongst the first in Europe to add hot water pipes to warm their floors. Houses across Europe have had success with this method since the 1970s, with people attracted to the silence and lack of blown air, which reduces dust mites in the air by 80%. This can be a godsend for people suffering from hay fever or other allergic reactions.
RFH provides consistent and even heat across your home, but many people opt for this system for its potential savings. Radiating underfloor heating can cut your heating costs by 25% to 50%. While it is easier to install radiant floor heating while you are building a new home, it is possible to successfully retrofit into existing spaces. While some people choose to add RFH systems to one or two rooms, a whole-home system is more effective and economical in the long run.
Radiant heating is incredibly safe, despite past worries about exposure to magnetic fields. On average, most people in the UK are exposed to less than one microtesla of magnetism each day. While it is true that the unshielded RFH systems of the past could limit 20 to 40 times that amount, manufacturers have taken significant steps to ensure that their systems are safe for use in residential homes.[ii]
On the other hand, radiators can be quite dangerous, especially when you have small children.[iii] Severe burns from contact and steam are common, as are bumps, bruises, and lacerations from radiator corners. As ‘invisible’ systems that run beneath the surface of the floor, radiant floor heating doesn’t have any of the hot surfaces or edges that can cause injury to people and pets.
Of course, if you want to ensure that your radiant heat floors are safe for your family, you should always have them designed and installed by a qualified expert.
So many people choose underfloor heating systems because they are energy efficient, saving you heaps of money over gas or electricity heating. That said, they do have a substantial installation cost, so be sure to factor that into your budget.[iv]
Different manufacturers, methods, and RFH products necessitate 2 different styles of installation.[v] Depending on what you choose, you will need to go with wet or dry installation. ‘Wet’ refers to embedding the components into wet concrete, while it can be done later with ‘dry’ installation.
Wet radiant floor installation requires that the components are embedded in wet concrete during the initial build, or afterwards in a new layer of concrete added for this purpose. Dry radiant floor installation allows the components to be layered below or above the subfloor, or occasionally sandwiched between two subfloor layers).
If you are planning on a new installation, you will find that most RFH systems on the market today rely on dry installation techniques. This makes retrofitting them into an older home much easier because you won’t need to pour new concrete.
Dry installation systems are newer technology and the more popular choice for new installations. They’re especially useful when retrofitting a system into an existing home because they don’t require additional concrete to be poured.
To activate and control your underfloor heater, you’ll need to utilise a specific thermostat (or series of thermostats). Unlike traditional heating thermostats that are mounted on the wall or attached to the boiler, most people choose to go for a ‘smart’ underfloor heating thermostat. That means that it is connected to your WiFi and can be controlled and activated from your phone or laptop. You can also connect your smart thermostat to your Google Home, Alexa, or Siri so that you can adjust and activate your heating merely by using your voice.
When you are choosing your radiant heating system, you will need to decide between electric vs hydronic heat.[vii]
Hydronic systems use heated water from a boiler to heat your floors. The water runs through flexible plastic loops that are called PEX (the same name also used for household water supply lines). The PEX tubes, filled with hot water, heat the floor. Many people prefer hydronic systems because they have lower operating costs and a better return on investment over time. This is usually the best option for heating large floor areas, as well ass entire homes and businesses.
However, electric RFH is also popular, precisely because they have less set up costs and fewer components. Hydronic systems need a boiler, a pump and gas lines, which is a more significant initial outlay. They also require professional installation, which adds to their cost. Electric systems are easier to set-up and require fewer parts.
Whether you are considering a new heating system for your home or a rental property, installing radiant floor heating is a solid investment choice. Not only does it remove hazardous radiators that can harm children and pets, but it also saves you money on heating costs.
There is truly nothing more decadent and stylish than an effortlessly warm home with no pockets of hot or cold air. RFH systems keep your feet warm and your home comfortable, no matter what the weather outside.
Barnes, A. (2018). Your Radiator Is A Lot More Dangerous Than You Think… Here’s How to Be Safe. [online] Boredom Therapy. Available at: https://boredomtherapy.com/radiator-safety/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2020].
Bryant, C. (2008a). Could radiant floor heating systems be related to some cancers? [online] HowStuffWorks. Available at: https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/home-diy/flooring/radiant-floor-heating-cancer1.htm [Accessed 23 Jun. 2020].
Bryant, C. (2008b). How Radiant Floor Heating Works. [online] HowStuffWorks. Available at: https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/construction/materials/radiant-floor-heating.htm.
Greenfield, M. (2020). The Definitive Guide to Radiant Floor Heating Systems. [online] Innovative Building Materials. Available at: https://innovativebuildingmaterials.com/radiant-floor-heating/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2020].
Handyman Magazine (2018). Electric vs. Hydronic Radiant Heat Systems. [online] The Family Handyman. Available at: https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/electric-vs-hydronic-radiant-heat-systems/#:~:text=The%20main%20advantage%20of%20hydronic [Accessed 23 Jun. 2020].
Simard, Y. (2020). What to Consider Before Installing Heated Floors. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/houzz/2016/10/18/what-to-consider-before-installing-heated-floors/#71a5a57f71e8 [Accessed 23 Jun. 2020].
Simply Switch (2019). Underfloor Heating – How much does underfloor heating cost? [online] Simply Switch. Available at: https://www.simplyswitch.com/energy/guides/underfloor-heating-is-it-right-for-you/#pc8 [Accessed 23 Jun. 2020].
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