Underfloor heating: pros and cons

Are you for or against underfloor heating? First of all, it is important to note that it is not possible to make an assessment that applies to everyone without making any exception, as there are so many parameters that come into consideration and everyone should make an assessment based on their own habits and needs.

However, it is possible to highlight some features of a floor heating system compared to traditional ones, i.e. wall heating systems.

The underfloor heating system

This system ensures a perfect heat diffusion thanks to its radiation inside the room: the hot air, being lighter than the cool air, will therefore tend to rise from the floor to the ceiling.

The system consists of a series of pipes placed on a series of insulating panels. Hot water flows inside the pipes. Therefore, the heat will tend to rise from the floor to the upper part of the room, hence warming it up. The water inside the pipes can be heated using a condensing or traditional boiler, photovoltaic or solar panels, a heat pump or a stove.

The water temperature requires to have a high-performance system of about 35 degrees and there are no limitations due to the type of floor.


But what are the benefits of underfloor heating?  

  • Having a floor heating system allows you to walk barefoot in the house, without having the feeling of cold under your feet and gives you a nice feeling of warmth.
  • Moreover, the room is heated evenly and not only in some spots, as it is the case when using heating sources located in specific areas of the house.
  • Underfloor heating can be installed in any type of home, without any kind of overheating problem, for example in wooden houses.
  • The simplicity of its installation and the minimal maintenance are the two other points in favour of this type of heating system: the minimum amount of space required in terms of height allows the structure to be laid on an existing floor and then to be completely covered.
  • Another point in favor of underfloor heating systems is their ability to be efficient with systems such as biomass boilers, solar thermal panels, and heat pumps. 
  • Among the benefits, we need to take into consideration the economic aspects of this system. Although initially, we are talking about an investment that can cost up to 50% more than installing a traditional heating system, in a short period of time the initial cost will be compensated by the savings in terms of consumption.

Let’s get into detail. The initial costs are mainly determined by the high quality of the materials and the search for skilled labour in this sector. However, it is estimated that, on average, an annual energy saving of 25% can be achieved. Another aspect to consider is that a floor heating system can be transformed into a cooling system by introducing cold water into the pipes and cooling the surrounding environment without the need to spend money on the purchase and installation of air conditioning equipment.

  • The appearance of the house can also be seen as an advantage: with the underfloor heating system, you can furnish the rooms without the clutter of unsightly radiators.
  • Even the health of a home is conditioned by this system: it is much more difficult to form mould or dust thanks to a more homogeneous diffusion of the heat. It also ensures the correct humidity of the air, not creating problems for those affected by respiratory diseases. Each room will have the desired temperature thanks to the use of simple thermostats. Moreover, thanks to the thermal inertia, even after switching it off, the room will remain warmed up for a long time without any energy waste.


And what are the cons of underfloor heating?

As mentioned above, installation costs are an obstacle that discourages many homeowners. Compared to traditional radiators, we can spend from 30 to 50% more on an underfloor heating system. Qualified labour and high-quality materials are the most economically relevant aspects.

If any pipes appear to be damaged, there is a serious risk that the entire floor will have to be removed. If you do not have a large stock of tiles or hardwood flooring, you can understand the damage involved. It is also important to have a plan of the system in order to limit the interventions.

  • For the hardwood flooring lovers it is important that the installation is done correctly because otherwise, there is a real risk that the planks are lifted.
  • Another aspect to consider is the elevation of the floor of about 5 cm. This could be a problem for houses that need to be renovated in which there is custom-made furniture.
  • As mentioned before, this system allows you to have reduced maintenance, but this does not mean that you should not do it at all. In fact, a complete washing of the pipes must be regularly planned. Indeed, it is necessary to free the pipes from sludge, limestone, algae or corrosive elements that could represent a risk for the boiler and make the diffusion of the heat, less efficient.
  • In addition, it is not possible to switch on and off the system intermittently. It must be kept switched on for a whole day before it reaches the desired uniform level of heating. It must then be left on to ensure the continuity of the service.
  • Finally, for those who love carpets or particularly voluminous pieces of furniture that need to be laid on the ground, there is the risk that each element or covering positioned on the floor may significantly limit the heat transmitted by the underfloor heating system.

Therefore, and as initially said, today it is not possible to say for everyone that one system is, by far, better than the other one. Every individual will have to assess the size of their home, their personal habits, the costs of their current heating system and the economic means: once all the assessments have been made, they will then be able to compare the pros and cons of underfloor heating and make an informed choice.


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