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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Pension mortgages: 'The advice I was given was wrong and now I face losing my home'
You'll need £220,000 for a minimum wage in your retirement
Questions of Cash: I checked in with Air France in time and still missed the plane
Minister's pension promise to firefighters challenged
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 3 Antonio Martin shooting: Mayor says there should be 'no comparison' to Ferguson
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
iJobs Money & Business
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens