Underfloor heating: costs vs. efficiency
Summer is coming to an end and in a week or two you will be sorting through your wardrobe looking for winter clothing and checking that the heating system will be ready when you need it. Whether you have electric radiators or a heating system with a gas boiler, or whether you just use stoves or heaters, this is the ideal moment to think about the system that you have in your home. Is it the right one for you or might there be alternatives that are cheaper, more efficient and more environmentally friendly?
One option that is becoming more and more popular is underfloor heating , a system that allows a very considerable saving in costs without having to give up on comfort and that is also more environmentally friendly than the traditional heating systems because it is more efficient. Basically, there are two types: the "wet" ones that generate heat through piped water and "dry" ones that are designed to operate with electrical resistance.
Although this alternative is a great unknown for many Spanish families, the fact is that its existence goes back as far as the Roman era of the 1st century BC, when the engineer Caius Sergius Aurata perfected a form of heating through the floor that gave a service to the clients of the thermal baths of the empire and that was called a hypocaust. Today, two thousand years later, the renovation companies are installing systems based on this idea that make it possible for homes in the 21st century to fight against winter’s cold. Let’s look characteristics and features that make underfloor heating different from the traditional heating systems.
1. It’s cheaper
While underfloor heating requires an initial outlay, the fact that it is more efficient means a monthly saving on your energy bill which will mean that it will pay for itself quickly, especially if it is heated by water. This system reaches temperatures of 25 to 29 degrees in the home without excessive consumption because it is efficient and immediate, that is to say, it gives out heat directly and can be regulated by thermostats located in all the rooms.
The monthly saving in energy can be as much as 20%, because the heat source is located uniformly under the floor and is able to achieve greater efficiency (and comfort) than in the conventional systems (radiators) with a lower temperature of the heat sources.
The initial expenditure varies a lot depending on the quality of the materials and of the installation companies, but the Certicalia association puts the average cost of the installation at 40 euros per square metre, on top of which there are the costs of furniture storage and those arising from having to be away from home for a few days.
2. It reduces dryness
With traditional heating systems you have to install humidifiers to fight against the dryness, especially if children or old people live in the home, and nobody wants to send all winter in the doctor’s waiting room with colds and flu and breathing problems.
Radiators reduce the humidity to below 20%, when the health professionals recommend a minimum level close to 40% which is easier to reach with underfloor heating systems. Because the heat source is located in the floor and distributed through the home much less dryness is produced and, what’s more, it reduces dust, very important factors to bear in mind, especially if your home is in areas of the interior of Spain.
3. It’s better looking
If you decide to put underfloor heating in your home, you’ll say goodbye to radiators, stoves, heaters and all the other things that that give out heat and take up space as well as being unpleasant to look at. Your home will always be at the temperature that you decide with none of the visible fittings that make it difficult to position your furniture or hang decorations on the walls. You will be able to make the most of the layout of your home putting that cupboard where it would never fit before, or having an extra bed in the guest room where you couldn’t before because there was an enormous radiator.
4. There are various options
There are currently two types of underfloor heating. The most popular is the one that uses water to heat the property. The system requires the installation of piping under all the floor surface, which could be parquet, marble, carpet or other materials. These pipes conduct hot water, transmitting the heat to the home with energy provided by gas heaters, heat pumps, solar panels or any other generation system.
The other option is to use electric underfloor heating, which works with resistance units installed under the flooring with a heating mat, which is fitted over an insulating layer. It is an evolution from the wet system of pipes and water and is easier, faster and cheaper to install.
To know which of the two systems best meets your needs you should get the opinion of expert and ask for a study of the location of the property, the available surface and the area to be heated. While it is normal if you have a natural gas boiler to go for wet underfloor heating so as to avoid shocks in the electricity bill, electric underfloor heating should not always be ruled out as it can prove worthwhile because of its fast response, energy efficiency and quick installation at low cost. If this is your case we recommend you to get an electricity tariff with time discrimination to limit the impact on your monthly electricity bill.
5. There are some drawbacks to look at
The first main drawback to be mentioned is that underfloor heating is troublesome to install if it s not in a building that is for renovation or a new work. Moving the furniture out of the home, raising the floor and laying the new heating system is a tricky process that means you will have to move out for a few days.
Another point to mention is that with wet underfloor heating the time necessary to heat the home is greater than with traditional heating systems because it uses lower temperatures. For that reason, it should not be turned on and off unless you are going to be away for a long time. Also, you will have to have regular inspections and recycle the water in the circuit to prevent impurities from reducing the efficiency of the installation.
Now that you know what underfloor heating is and how it works, you can think about installing it in your home. Do the sums to check that it is in line with your family budget and employ a specialist that you trust to advise you as to which is the system that will be best in your home and is most in line with your needs.