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Published on February 8th, 2023

How retrofit underfloor heating works

If you’ve been looking into retrofitting your home, your heating system will be in your thoughts as part of the improvements - what doesn't always spring to mind is getting underfloor heating

5 mins Retrofit Guides Heating Systems

If you’ve been looking into retrofitting your home, your heating system will be in your thoughts as part of the improvements - what doesn't always spring to mind is getting underfloor heating. As well as contemplating whether to move away from a traditional boiler to use a heat pump, you could look into replacing or augmenting your radiators.

Underfloor heating (UFH) is a solid option for heating your home as part of a renovation project, especially if you spend more time there than you used to.

You may have heard about it before, or you may have experienced it at a friend's house or hotel. It is an alternative to putting radiators on the wall. In very basic terms, the floor becomes the radiator.  You are less likely to have ‘cold spots’ as the whole area above the floor will be heated - rather than just the air around the radiator.

It works by putting a heat conductor below the existing structure, the exact details will depend upon your existing flooring. It will involve either putting UFH underneath or on-top of your current floor, or if that isn’t possible it may require ripping it all out and starting again.

We'll look at:

  1. What options are there for underfloor heating?
  2. What do I need to think about before getting underfloor heating?
  3. How long does it take to get underfloor heating installed?
  4. What does underfloor heating cost?
  5. What’s the best way to install underfloor heating?

Book a home assessment and start your journey to a healthier home with Furbnow.

1. What options are there for underfloor heating?

There are two options - electric (“Dry”) or pipes with warm-water (“Wet”). 

Electric UFH generally comes pre-laid with the wires embedded in sticky mat panels, which are then placed on a new level underneath the existing flooring. There is also an option of a loose cable set up for any areas where pre-made tiles won’t fit

These tend to be used in places where amending the floor height is problematic, as they can be fitted in with minimal change to the overall height. 

The warm-water options use pipes underneath the floor covering. There are two options here, too.

Read: 7 signs your home isn’t energy efficient

2. What do I need to think about before getting underfloor heating?

There have been some excellent advances with UFH technology over recent years, but it’s still a considerable initial outlay and undertaking.

The first thing to consider is your floor height and material. Is there room to raise it a bit if needed? If yes, then you have the option of both UFH sources, if not then you should look at the electric option as it can be laid with minimal change.

You then need to look at installation time - how quickly do you need it done? Is it part of a bigger project? If you’re having UFH installed as part of a larger renovation, the electric tile options will be the quickest solution. This is in part due to the need for the drying time for the screed with the pipes.  Do talk to your existing installer / project manager about timings, however.

What heat source do you have, or are you planning? A boiler or Heat Pump? Both would work equally well with warm-water UFH, or if you want to use the electric UFH option, it doesn’t matter.

Most importantly, you need to review the overall insulation of your house. UFH operates best in a well insulated house that can retain the heat it emits. This is a result of the UFH needing to be on most of the time to work most effectively, due to the time it takes to warm up and cool down. (although this does matter less with the electric options as it’s not waiting on the water to be heated).

Bearing this in mind - one compromise is to install UFH on the ground floor, and radiators upstairs, if this fits in with your living situation. This setup will allow a constant heat throughout the day with the UFH, and quicker ramping up of heat upstairs around bedtime, making it more energy efficient. 

Your budget. Pipes will cost more in capital investment, but the operating costs will be cheaper. Electric tiles are quick to install but have higher running costs. For this reason they tend to be more effective in smaller rooms.

Read: From heat-pumps to insulation: 5 ways I can reduce my bills for good

3. How long does it take to get underfloor heating installed?

It usually takes between one and two days, depending upon the complexity and size of the project. If you’re using the premade mats, it will take a lot less time than if you’re laying pipes between screed!

Read: What could a whole house retrofit do for you

4. What does underfloor heating cost?

Electric (Dry)  is cheaper than pipes. It can cost in the region of £60 to £85 per square metre for electric UFH, and between £135 and £185 for pipes (Wet) UFH. You’ll have the labour costs on top of that which based on a 10m squared installation space will range from approximately £800 (for electric) to £1200 (for pipes).

Using 10m2 squared as a baseline, at the cheap end you’d be looking at about £1,400 for electric and £2,500 for pipes

As with any work, this will all depend on the amount of work you want done, the age of your property and any additional costs that arise during the installation process.

The capital outlay will be offset by energy savings you should make in the long-run, especially with wet UFH, as the operating temperature is about 40 degrees lower than that needed to heat a radiator. You could save up to 25% on your current energy bills. 

This applies mostly to wet UFH, as electric will cost more to run (as you’re using electricity). It can still offer a monthly saving, depending on your habits - but with the cost of electricity as it is (in 2023), you currently won’t see much of a difference.

Read: How to improve the energy performance certificate of your home and reduce your bills

5. What’s the best way to install underfloor heating?

It is entirely possible to install electric UFH yourself - although you will require a qualified electrician to confirm everything is wired to the thermostat correctly. Wet underfloor heating will require a specialist.

Here at Furbnow, we want to help make retrofit fit you. We have a network of specialist retrofit installers who you will be able to work with confidence. If you’d like to speak to someone about underfloor heating, by itself or as part of a bigger retrofit project, you can speak to our customer service team.

Book a home assessment and start your journey to a healthier home with Furbnow.

Written by

Oisin Teevan