02 Apr 2020

Top tips to successfully plan your underfloor heating project

LAs underfloor heating (UFH) becomes an increasingly popular choice for self-builders and homeowners, Nigel Sanger, Divisional Director Technical Support at RWC UK, explores the best practices to ensure a successful project.

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According to the ‘Underfloor Heating Market by Component – Global Forecast 2023’, the demand for UFH is set to increase by 67% between 2016 and 2023. It comes as no surprise as UFH offers some clear benefits. Top of the list in today’s eco-conscious society is that UFH can heat a larger area at a lower temperature than radiators, offering energy efficiencies and reducing heating bills.

UFH is also ideal for homeowners looking to make a statement. By doing away with bulky radiators, there is more space for interior design, and room layouts are more flexible. Suitable for both open-plan areas and compact living where space is at a premium, UFH can also be paired with smart thermostats. This adds an even deeper level of personalisation, offering more control and the ability to tailor the heating to specific needs.

However, for those looking to tackle the project themselves, it pays to be aware of best practice around this technology, particularly when planning, designing, zoning and commissioning. By having these front of mind, UFH projects can run smoothly with less potential for delays, re-works and costly remedial action.

Designing and planning

Just as with any other project, planning is vital to ensure that the job runs smoothly – from having the materials ready, through to ordering enough pipe to ensure there are no delays when the installation has started.

This is particularly true when mapping out UFH in the property. Pipework needs to be carefully measured so that enough materials are ordered. Skipping the planning stage can cause project delays, under- or over-ordering, and even compromising the performance of the system altogether.

For self-builders who may not have tackled UFH projects before, UFH suppliers – like JG Underfloor – have support teams in place who can help with the specification process, reducing the risks stated above and ensuring all the components needed are ordered. Our JG Underfloor website; for example, features an instant quote generator which will create a bill of materials from a simple project outline.

Heating controls and zoning your home

One of the benefits of UFH systems is the ability to create multi-zone systems controlled by individual thermostats, allowing different zones to be heated at different times and temperatures.

To do this successfully, it is critical that zones and positioning of thermostats are mapped out to match the occupant’s lifestyle, at the design stage. Doing so will ensure that the pipework layout and wiring centre will support the zones.

It’s also important to not cut corners with thermostats. To save on capital and installation costs, it is not uncommon to see one thermostat controlling multiple zones, or one thermostat for the whole home/floor. We recommend the use of individual thermostats for every zone to allow individual heating control for that area. By controlling multiple rooms by one thermostat, rooms that are not in use will be heated when only specific areas need to be heated, and temperature of the room where the thermostat is located will influence the temperature in other rooms. To realise long-term energy savings, it is advised to invest in thermostats for individual rooms and zones.

From piping nightmareto pipe-dream

An important part of the installation process is to consider the pipework. It is best to use pipe that complements UFH installations. For example, the Layflat pipe from JG Speedfit lays flat and flexibly turns around the edges while creating pipe circuits, helping speed up the pipe laying process.

It’s also recommended to cover the pipes coming up to the manifold with conduit pipes, as they act as a protective sleeve, shielding pipes from accidental damages. The conduit also prevents excessive heat from building up in areas where pipes carrying hot water are close together, which can cause cracks and damage the floor.

Under pressure, the importance of testing

Following installation, it is vital that the system is put under a pressure test using water. A common misconception is that testing with air is enough. However, doing so will not allow the pipes to fully expand, simply because air can be compressed, while water can’t be. It is also important to make sure there aren’t any traces of air in the system, which can have a detrimental effect on how the system runs.

Best practice is to perform a pressure test at six-bar before flooring or screed is laid. This allows to check for leaks and ensures the pipes reach maximum expansion. Specifically, if you are using screed, maintaining the pressure until it has been fully laid and cured to prevent it from cracking later.

The best-laid plans

As the old saying goes, by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail. Whether you have overseen UFH projects before, or it is the first time that you’re considering this technology, it is always advisable to liaise with manufacturers to scope out your project and plan accordingly. By doing so, the project can be streamlined, costly errors are prevented, and installation challenges can be foreseen and overcome in advance.

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