4 min read

Is electric underfloor heating worth it?

Is electric underfloor heating worth it?

You may have experienced the sheer joy and comfort of underfloor heating at a friend’s or neighbour’s house. You may have also been told about the life enhancing benefits of it when choosing your new bathroom suite at your local bathroom showroom. But have you asked yourself the question ‘is electric underfloor heating worth it?’.

In this blog, I’ll do my best to help you answer that question and as someone who has electric underfloor heating in my current property and had it in the previous property, I’ll also give an honest view on what it is like living with electric underfloor heating.

I must mention, that I never once installed electric underfloor heating as a renovation project, it had already been installed which was part of the appeal of the property.

So, is electric underfloor heating worth it? No…

What? But you work for an electric heating manufacturer.

Correct! But hear me out.

The problem with electric underfloor heating

Remember that I mentioned I had electric underfloor heating in my current and previous property? Well, we had problems with both.

Why? The quality of the installation of the electric underfloor heating system was not good. In fact, it was terrible.

The previous property

A modest two-bedroom end of terrace that had electric underfloor heating under a tiled floor that led from the kitchen to the conservatory. The thermostat was on the wall in the conservatory and one day, whilst turning the underfloor heating on for the first time since we moved in, it tripped the fuse board.

Now, not yet an expert in electric underfloor heating, feelings of dread soon descended upon me. Thoughts of ripping up the beautifully tiled floor kept flowing through my mind. Especially how much it will cost to fix!

However, I was pointed in the direction of UFH Services who are specialist in electric underfloor heating repairs and they were local. Result!

Upon completing their investigation and using a thermal imaging camera, they discovered several problems.

  • The reason for the fuse board trip was because the connection between the cold tail and the heating cable had been damaged (most likely during installation) and degraded over time.
  • One mat was used from the conservatory to the kitchen. The heating requirement of the conservatory was very different to that of the kitchen. Because the conservatory loses heat quicker, a higher output is needed to maintain a comfortable heat. The same output shouldn’t be used in the kitchen. Not only this, the kitchen had a different substrate to that used in the conservatory. Two different substrates have two different thermal properties and as a result, the time it takes to heat each area would be different. Because there was one sensor probe in the conservatory, it would heat up all the space faster resulting in a stifling hot kitchen. Made worse when cooking the Sunday roast.
  • No insulation! This meant even with the system working it would take twice as long to reach the desired temperature costing a lot more money to use.

An amazing thing that UFH Services did was to pinpoint exactly where the fault was in the heating cable so only one floor tile had to be lifted up to repair the system.

From what I recall, the cost of repair was about £350 which was much cheaper than I expected and the fear of ripping up the tiled floor was gone for good.

We’ve written a comprehensive article on repairing underfloor heating. So, if you want more detail on this read ‘Can you repair electric underfloor heating?

The current property

A fairly modern four-bedroom detached house that has a tiled floor throughout the hallway, utility room, kitchen and dining room all of which has electric underfloor heating underneath.

With the electric underfloor working, I got a smart metre to help keep the ever-rising energy bills to a manageable level. Biggest mistake ever! Why? During the colder months we had the underfloor heating on and controlled by a programmable thermostat. However, my obsession with glancing at the smart metre every time I walked past alerted me to the cost going up quicker than a rat up a drain pipe! In fact, one day we hit £7.11 worth of electric and it was only 5.45pm!

To add insult to injury, a week later a leak was discovered in the central heating system. As part of the ‘crime scene investigation’, the chaps who came around to identify and fix the central heating issue used a thermal camera to track down the cause.

Good news, they found it! They also discovered that all of the electric underfloor heating had been installed without any insulation so it would naturally be costing so much more to use. Such a shame.

Nothing could be done to improve the efficiency of the system to the level I needed. Unless the tiles were ripped up and a new electric underfloor heating system was installed properly. Using insulation board would add 10mm to the floor height which sadly wasn’t considered as part of the renovation by the previous owners.

There’s a couple of insightful articles you can check out on improving the efficiency of underfloor heating. The first is ‘How do you make underfloor heating more efficient?’ and the second focuses on the importance of insulation, it’s called ‘Why removing insulation board from underfloor heating is costing homeowners.

Why am I telling you this?

Electric underfloor heating is actually worth it. But to enjoy it, ensure that you have all the facts and have it installed by a recognised installer who has the experience of doing it and doing it well.

Here’s a list of key questions to consider when thinking about installing electric underfloor heating in your home:

  1. What substrate will you be installing on? For concrete and screed substrates, we recommend uncoated insulation boards and for timber substrates, choose coated insulation boards. Adding insulation board can make the system up to 50% more efficient and that will save you money.
  2. What floor finish will you be having? There are lots of different types of systems out there and some are better for certain finishes. For example, a foil system is ideal for a wood, carpet or vinyl floor finish. For tile and stone floors, we would recommend a heating and decoupling system or a pre-spaced mesh mat system.
  3. What output do you need? The general rule of thumb is that the higher the potential heat loss, the higher the output required. A conservatory will be more prone to heat loss than a bathroom so a 200W/m2 might be advised for the conservatory whilst a 150W/m2 system would be recommended for a bathroom. Consider paying for a heat loss calculation to check before purchasing the system.
  4. How will you control the heating? With so many different types of thermostats available, how do you know which one to choose? Any programmable thermostat will help you effectively manage your system and reduce energy waste. But if you have a passion for technology, then a smart thermostat might be more your thing because you can control your heating via an app whenever you have connection to the internet.
  5. Have you registered your warranty? Some brands of electric underfloor heating offer lifetime warranties so it is worth ensuring your installer has tested the system before, during and after the installation, then written down the readings so you can register your warranty. If something were to go wrong with the product (and it rarely does), you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you are covered.

In summary

Electric underfloor heating is a great addition to any home but to enjoy it make sure your installation is top notch and the five questions above have been considered. That way, you’ll avoid the experience I had.

A final note. I deliberately didn’t mention what brand of electric underfloor heating was installed in both properties because the product wasn’t the problem, it was how it was installed.

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