Underfloor heating is increasingly popular for its energy efficiency, but it doesn’t have to be used in isolation. We see many homeowners and particularly self-builders opt for underfloor heating on an open-plan ground floor; and traditional or designer panel radiators upstairs, so that everyone can set their own preferred temperature in each bedroom. In bathrooms and cloakrooms, towel warmers are still very popular too. Some 30% of the project enquiries that we now receive involve the use of underfloor heating in combination with other technologies such as radiators and fan convectors; and this is a growing trend.
Hydronic, or ‘wet’, underfloor heating is installed using loops of water-bearing pipes which are laid and fixed in a pattern in rows across the floor to distribute an even warmth throughout the room. Naturally, if the heating system is hidden from view, the designer has a completely free hand with decor; and furniture can be rearranged periodically if desired, without needing to factor in where the heating is situated.
To make life easier, we provide handy underfloor heating room packs which contain all that you need to install heating in a single room. For larger spaces, the installer can design a system using the component parts from the Floortec range. When you buy everything from us, as well as getting a full system guarantee, you can also access our technical support and design assistance, so creating your own underfloor system really ought to be a possible option in almost every project.
There is also an increase in the use of electric underfloor heating, especially when updating a bathroom or cloakroom in an existing property. Electric underfloor heating comes in the form of a woven mat carrying electrical wires which emit the heat. The mat is placed carefully to shape, laid over the existing floor and fixed in place. The sensors and controls must be installed by an electrician, before a new ceramic or laminate floorcovering is laid. A really useful added bonus is that electric underfloor heating can be used on an unexpected chilly morning, even when the rest of the heating is turned off.
If you do choose to combine underfloor heating with radiators and towel warmers, you should be careful to source all your products from a single manufacturer, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as this is really the only way to ensure consistent high quality, and to be confident that they will work effectively and energy efficiently together. You must also use good controls, some – such as the Myson Touch 2 WiFi control – can be operated remotely, so if the temperature drops, you can even turn the heating on before you get home!
Underfloor heating ticks all the boxes!
When it comes to heating, there is no single off-the-peg solution that suits every situation and it is no longer a case of considering the individual components in isolation. Now the emphasis is on looking at the whole project design and mixing and matching various systems to achieve the most appropriate overall solution.
This is being driven by Building Regulations which, in turn, are taking account of the sustainability agenda, energy use and reduction of CO2 emissions in buildings. As a consequence, suppliers that provide total designed solutions rather than individual products are in a winning position.
Underfloor heating (UFH) – whether wet or electric – is well placed to be part of a holistic design solution. It scores well in terms of environmental performance and is regarded as economical, ultra-efficient and comfortable.
Simple to install and control, UFH wastes no heat at ceiling level and frees up valuable wall space, providing complete design freedom. Wet systems circulate water at low temperatures through a series of continuous pipe loops laid within a screed, or between timber joists, beneath the floor surface. Electric systems consist either of cables laid within the screed or cable mats laid on top of existing subfloors.
Importantly, UFH has the ability to tick the boxes when it comes to working with renewable energy and sustainable solutions yet it cannot do this in isolation. It must be considered in terms of the other components that make up the floor such as insulation, screed and floorcoverings as well as in relation to the energy source, the overall specification of the building and level of sustainability being sought.
Underfloor heating – the low-down
Water-based underfloor heating lends itself to complete design freedom and a consistent heat output. With such a wide range of systems available, there is a solution for all projects. Andy Coy, Product Manager at Polypipe Underfloor Heating, explains the process from specification to completion.
Step 1 – Evaluation
The first step is evaluating the project type and size and then choosing the most suitable solution. Polypipe has systems that can be installed within a new floor, between joists or over an existing floor, so the choice of system depends on what stage of the project UFH is specified at.
Step 2 – Installation
Prepare the installation surface/subfloor and then lay the pipe as per the manufacturer’s instructions for your chosen system (Polypipe offers an installation guide and a full design service to assist during installation).
Step 3 – Installing the manifold
Next, the manifold will need to be installed, ensuring the wall is strong enough to support the manifold and its connecting pipework, and then the piping connected.
Step 4 – Pressure testing
The system must be pressure tested with water up to six-bar to ensure there are no leaks within the system. If screed is being used, the system should be kept at six-bar throughout the screed pour and drying time.
Step 5 – Final steps
Finally, the thermostats are installed and the manifold flow and returns plumbed in. The system should not be operational until the screed is fully cured, after which the system can be increased slowly up to the design temperature.