Underfloor heating: The hot way to stay warm this winter

You can heat your house more efficiently with an underfloor system
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The Independent Online

The latest survey on home decorating trends found that underfloor heating is now one of the most desirable items on a prospective buyer's list, along with power showers and American-style fridges.

Still regarded as a luxury by many of us, mainly due to the upheaval it causes when installed, underfloor heating has, of course, been around since Roman times. These days, there are two options if you are considering installing underfloor heating.



The system

Underfloor heating provides a more even heat rather than the localised warmth from a radiator. It also frees up wall space for furniture or decoration. Choose between a wet system, which uses hot water flowing through pipes in the floor, or a dry system, which uses an electric element.



The cost

It costs more to install underfloor heating than a conventional radiator system but, as it's more efficient, running costs should be reduced. Wet systems can be integrated with the hot water supply, as well as used with cold water to cool a room more efficiently than air conditioning. Wet systems are the most expensive to install, while dry systems are the most expensive to run. Edel Walsh, of www.invisibleheating.co.uk (01854 613161) says: "We are phasing out the dry systems because it's just too expensive to run. They are easier and cheaper to install, but when you balance that against what they cost to run, we prefer to install wet systems."

You will have to take up the floor to install a wet system, whereas a dry version can be laid under a floor covering. However, the pipes for the wet system may raise the floor by a couple of inches which is not always feasible.

You should be able to install a wet system in an average-sized house for around £5,000, says Bob Sage of www.underfloorheating.co.uk (01424 851111), whereas warmup.co.uk (0845 345 2288) says it will cost under £200 to install electric underfloor heating in a bathroom.

Efficiency

The most obvious difference is in the heating time. It takes longer to heat a concrete floor right through than to heat a small radiator. Conversely it will also retain its heat for longer when turned off. Underfloor heating, however, will provide more ambient heat throughout, rather than hot spots. Like any heating system, it won't work well in a poorly insulated house, so if you are thinking of installing it, consider the rest of the building first.



Where to fit it

The most obvious place is bathrooms and kitchens where traditional tile floors can be cold to walk on, but it can be installed in any room. Do bear in mind that a thick carpet can insulate the room against the very pipes that are trying to heat it, so buy underlay with a low tog rating and the total thickness with the carpet should be no more than 12mm. If you have floorboards, check that the heat will not distort the planks or crack the varnish.



Maintenance

The pipes are guaranteed for up to 50 years in some cases, so repairs should be concentrated on the wall fittings and shouldn't mean the floor has to come up if there's a problem.

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