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How Does Underfloor Heating Work?

Nowadays, new technology has given us the opportunity to choose among various ways to heat and cool our premises. Among others, we have air conditioners, heat pumps, radiant heat, and cooling systems.

Underfloor heating (UFH) has been around for hundreds of years.

The first underfloor heating was discovered in North Korea. The Ancient Romans and Greeks have also used underfloor heating systems in the form of hypocausts. These systems raised the floor with pillars while hot air passed through the space beneath to heat the flooring.
It is in the 1980s that underfloor heating systems became more widespread around the world, including the UK.

To better understand UFH, in this article we will cover various topics which are stated below:


How Does UFH Work?

The principle of underfloor heating is very simple. Rather than mount metal panels on walls - pipes are instead laid in the floor and warm water circulates throughout them so that the floor effectively becomes a large radiator.

Because the floor is larger compared to a normal wall-mounted radiator, it only needs to run a few degrees above the air temperature to provide enough warmth to gently heat the whole room.

The primary aim of the floor heating design is to create an even, uniform source temperature across the entire floor area within the building to ensure a consistent comfort level throughout the structure.

Loops of pipes are normally installed beneath the whole floor area. These loops are connected to a central UFH manifold, which is supplied with hot water from a suitable heat source – such as a boiler or heat pump.

For more information, read our article on How Does Radiant Heating and Cooling Work?


Is UFH Good Value for Money?

UFH is a true radiant system and heats from floor to ceiling. UFH avoids wasted heat at high levels and since the whole floor is heated evenly, optimum comfort is achieved everywhere in the room.

The room thermostat can be set 1-2°C lower than a radiator system and the room will still feel more comfortable. Running the system at a lower temperature and reducing the heat wasted at levels above head height makes for significant savings on fuel costs.

However, it is difficult to determine the exact savings that can be made since there are operational factors that also need to be considered such as the floor construction, floor covering material, pipe spacing and the temperature of water circulating through the UFH pipes.


Is UFH Better than Radiators?

An underfloor heating system evenly distributes heat throughout a room, and this ensures a comfortable environment, with optimal energy efficiency.

A radiator system, on the other hand, concentrates heating in one area first before it is spread across the whole room. This makes it highly inefficient and there is also the risk that heat is lost through the ceiling.

For more on this topic please visit our underfloor heating vs radiators article.


What Materials Are Used in Underfloor Heating?

Installing UFH is different from conventional central heating. Although the heat source is often the same, the materials and method of heat distribution are different:
  1. There is a central distribution point, the manifold, which is served by the primary heating source and distributes warm water to the pipes of the UFH system.
  2. UFH operates with a low water temperature flow and return and therefore requires its own water temperature controls and pump.
  3. UFH uses the whole floor area as the heating medium, replacing radiators or convectors.


Can You Use a Thermostat or a Water Temperature Control with UFH?

To meet the requirements of BS EN 1264, water temperature control must be provided. This ensures that maximum floor surface temperatures are not exceeded.

All Uponor water temperature controls are designed to mix and control the primary heat source flow water temperature with the UFH return water temperature, to a temperature suitable for the UFH system.


Can Underfloor Heating Work with a Boiler?

Traditionally, the primary heat source has been a boiler, producing low-temperature hot water for the system. Modern high efficiency condensing boilers are ideal for UFH as the low water temperature allow the boiler to work in condensing mode.

If the heat source can provide and maintain a constant or variable water temperature for the requirement for the UFH, it might not be necessary to have any further water temperature controls.

However, careful thought must be given when choosing your boiler, as not all units are compatible. Always check the specific applications with the boiler manufacturer.


Can Underfloor Heating Work with Heat Pumps?

Yes, underfloor heating can certainly work with most heat pumps. More recently, other sources have become available which are ideal for UFH such as ground source or air source heat pumps. Heat pumps are becoming more and more popular due to the potential energy savings.


Can You Have Underfloor Heating with Wooden Floors?

There are many types of wood flooring that are considered suitable for use with UFH. There are also several methods of installing timber, which must also be taken into consideration before the system is designed.

Particular attention must be paid to the moisture content of wooden floors. Not all wooden floors are suitable for UFH, and advice should be sought from the flooring supplier or from the trade association TRADA.


Can You Have Underfloor Heating in a Bathroom and How Does It Work?

Yes, electric underfloor heating can be used in bathrooms. For more information, read our Beginner’s Guide to Underfloor Heating in Bathrooms.


What Is the Lifespan of Underfloor Heating?

Uponor’s electric underfloor heating system has a lifespan of over 25 years as long as the flooring remains intact. Water based systems can last up to 25 years and a system using a gas boiler can last around 10 years due to the many components that may need to be replaced.

Within Uponor’s underfloor heating range you have various solutions to choose from such as: Minitec, Siccus dry systems, underfloor heating packs  and Comfort E electrical.

Get in touch with the Uponor team today and we’ll assist you in finding the right underfloor heating system for you.