Water or electric underfloor heating?

Should I choose water or electric underfloor heating?

Underfloor heating spreads warmth evenly throughout a home using radiant heat. The floor is heated by the hot pipes looping underneath, which in turn, heats the objects in the room.

However, while the principle remains the same, there are different underfloor heating systems available to achieve this. They mainly fall into the two categories of wet/water underfloor heating and dry/electric underfloor heating.

Whether to choose water or electric underfloor heating is one of our most frequently asked questions and it continues to be a relevant topic. The short answer is that while both systems offer a comfortable, even distribution of warmth throughout a room, they each have pros and cons depending on the individual situation, requirements and budget.

Here we’ll have a look at both in a bit more detail.

Wet, or water-based, underfloor heating systems

  • Wet, or water-based, underfloor heating systems circulate heated water through a series of pipes fitted below the top level of the floor
  • It is easy to maintain and control
  • Favoured in new-build properties
  • In existing properties, it can mean digging down or adding more height to achieve the required depth for the system to be laid correctly
  • Technology is constantly being developed though and new lower-profile wet kits are coming to market
  • Wet systems can be linked to an energy efficient condenser boiler to help reduce heating bills
  • Can be used with renewable forms of energy such as air or ground source heat pumps

Dry, or electric, underfloor heating systems

  • Instead of hot water running through pipes, electrically-heated mats are rolled out underneath the top layer of floor
  • Incredibly simple to install
  • Can easily be added to an existing property using the Retro18 retrofit underfloor heating system with no need to dig down or make any structural changes to the sub-floor. Retro18 is an ultra-low profile British engineered board. The boards have a high thermal conductivity so heating response times are quicker and energy use is reduced without the need for additional elements to act as the heat emitter.
  • Doesn’t add any additional height to the floor
  • Many customers like the idea of having an additional, stand-alone heating system in certain parts of the house, such as a conservatory

What about the cost of wet versus dry underfloor heating?

Water underfloor heating is considered to be the most economic to run. This is because the continual flow of water through a pressurised system is better at heating the top layer of flooring. Because it can be connected to a condenser boiler, it is also generally more energy efficient than electricity.

Depending on the source of energy used to heat the system, wet or water underfloor heating can cost 20% less to run than traditional radiators. Electric underfloor heating can be cheaper to run than oil or LPG fuelled systems and electric storage heaters.

Insulation, insulation, insulation!

The overall success of both wet and dry underfloor heating systems also depends on a number of other contributing factors. One of the most important factors is insulation.

Because underfloor heating does not give out large amounts of wasted heat, you need a well-insulated property for maximum benefit.

With a well-insulated home, including loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and double glazed windows, you will find that even an electric underfloor heating system is enough to be the only source of heat in a room.

With over 20 years of experience in underfloor heating, our experts can discuss the options with you in more detail so that you get the right underfloor heating solution for your requirements.

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