Underfloor heating: luxury and a sound investment
It may not be cheaper than radiators to install, but it is eco-friendly, saves money in the long term, adds value and makes you feel like a film star
Sunday 28 February 2010
Improving your home is a great way to increase your chance of catching a buyer's eye when the time comes to sell. But what's the best project to undertake to increase value and attractiveness?
In the past, estate agents suggested new kitchens or bathrooms, either of which could set you back thousands. A more recent trend is underfloor heating which, though initially expensive, can be cost-effective.
Underfloor heating is similar to installing a traditional central heating system, both in price and in process. "Think of it as like having a large, horizontal low-temperature radiator mounted in the floor," says Graham Poole, sales manager at Floor Heating Online.
With soaring fuel bills and a growing green lobby, energy-saving measures are becoming more important to househunters. But, according to the Nationwide Building Society, we also want warm homes – a lack of central heating knocks an average of 9 per cent off a property's value.
Nationwide also says that British homes are among the least energy efficient in Europe, responsible for 27 per cent of the UK's total carbon emissions. "In Germany, it's extremely rare to find a home without underfloor heating, and the situation is similar in Scandinavia," says Ian Mills of the Underfloor Heating Manufacturers Association.
Eco-friendly improvements help to cut costs and reduce emissions, which has prompted a number of government initiatives aimed at encouraging householders to undertake them. But too many are beyond the budgets of a lot of homeowners. Measures such as insulation are more straightforward, with nearly all properties in the UK eligible for some level of grant.
The boiler scrappage scheme launched earlier this year gives up to £400 off the installation of a new A-rated (condensing) boiler to replace those with a G rating. Any boiler over 15 years old is very likely to be G rated. But if you're considering this, you'll need to move reasonably quickly as the official vouchers are running out; so it may be worth considering a new heating system altogether.
Condensing boilers are ideal for underfloor heating. But in many UK homes the boilers are supplying the heat to a dinosaur system. Condensing boilers condense only when the return flow of hot water is below 60C, but traditional central heating via radiators often involves a return flow of around 60C-70C.
Trends come and go in heating. Yet, radiators have pretty much remained the standard and there's been a long-running debate over whether radiators are energy efficient. The short answer is no. Regardless of the fact that radiators don't allow many new boilers to function in accordance with their environmentally friendly credentials, to experience the full benefits you'll probably have to climb up on top of the wardrobe, as the hot air rises to the ceiling. The energy required for underfloor heating can be as little as two-thirds that needed for standard central heating.
The cost of materials and installation varies, but you will face a bill in the thousands. Against this, the new system will add value to your home, unlike some other so-called improvements.
Berkeley Homes already uses a variety of systems of underfloor heating in its developments – gas, electric and exhaust-air heat pump. The last involves taking air from warm parts of the home, such as the kitchen and bathroom, and using it to heat the water supply for the underfloor heating. This is the beauty of such a system. Unlike radiators, it's warm water that is required. A timber floor, for instance, needs water at about 40C, and any source of heat can be used.
Air heat pumps now qualify for a grant of up to £900 and can be used instead of a boiler (enabling householders to take advantage of the £400 boiler scrappage scheme). The pumps are up to 310 per cent more efficient than a modern domestic boiler. Because it's recycling air, for every 1kW of electricity used to run the pump, 3.1kW of heat is circulated, in comparison with just under 1kW of output from a standard boiler.
Heat pumps can be used to heat traditional radiators, too, allowing a mixed system of underfloor heating in extensions or refits combined with existing radiators elsewhere.
A retrofit system – lifting floorboards and fitting pipes between existing joists, for example – will cost more than working from scratch, but here the British obsession with DIY comes into its own. Laying the pipes and connecting them to the manifold is relatively easy. "Any competent DIYer should be able to manage it," says Graham Poole. The manifold can then be connected to the heat source by a qualified plumber. A DIY kit for a three-bed house of 120 square metres will cost between £3,500-£5,000.
One downside is that bathrooms are harder to heat as the bath absorbs much of the floor space. But elsewhere, an underfloor system will feel like the height of opulence, consigning slippers to the dog basket – but the dog won't be in the basket: will be sprawled across the floor.
Underfloor Heating Manufacturers Association ( uhma.org.uk) for a list of members for supply and installation; Floor Heating Online ( floorheatingonline.com) sells systems and accessories; the Energy Saving Trust ( energysavingtrust.org.uk) for details of grants and different ways to save energy
'We can arrange rooms just as we like without radiators'
Karen Mayne and her husband, George, installed underfloor heating in 2003 when they moved into their Victorian farmhouse outside Ryde on the Isle of Wight
"We chose underfloor heating principally for the flexibility of not having radiators, which limit your wall space and how you can arrange a room," says Karen. "Also, because it gives a more even heat. We have the heating under floating wooden floors, and they work really well. It's lovely underfoot and animals love it." A word of warning, though. For Christmas, Karen's daughter bought her a pair of chocolate stilettos, which sat under the tree. On the 25th, she opened a melted puddle of chocolate.
Independent Partners: See how much you could save by switching credit cards. Compare now
Mountain goats miraculously survive avalanche in the Alps
Skyfall's Ben Whishaw confirmed for Freddie Mercury film
A cautionary tale for ambitious would-be authors
- 1 Dear Sir Jimmy Savile: A comedian's words of valediction to the nation's trusted uncle
- 2 Gurdwaras-turned-food banks: Sikh temples are catering for rise in Britain’s hungry
- 3 Teenage girl convicted of robbery after taking pre-crime selfie wielding knife
- 4 Newly vegan Beyoncé wears fox fur to dine in meat free restaurant
- 5 'I'm experiencing austerity as well', says Princess Michael of Kent
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£75000 - £85000 per annum + attractive benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Senior...
£70000 - £80000 per annum + Commission Package: Harrington Starr: Due to winni...
£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Support Analyst (Back Office, CRM, Sharepo...
£65000 - £80000 per annum + Excellent Bonus, Package : Harrington Starr: Busin...
Day In a Page
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden
A spacious Grade II-listed family home with annexe and equestrian facilities among four acres of land in Itchingfield
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.
John Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool to be sold at auction. Guide price: £150,000-£250,000.
A six-bedroom detached period property with secluded gardens, ample parking and a double garage in Rye, £675,000.
A large split-level property with three double-bedrooms and roof terrace, close to Crouch End Broadway, £625,000.
A charming barn conversion in the picturesque Cotswold village of Ilmington with three bedrooms, a detached garage, workshop and beautifully manicured gardens £675,000.
A three-bedroom new build, ground-floor flat with two bathrooms, close to Bermondsey tube, £445,000.
A three-bedroom house in an enviable new development moments from Oxshott High Street, with secluded garden and decked area, £385,000