Borders Underfloor Heating
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Underfloor Heating Myths and Legends

I think we've heard all the rumours about underfloor heating over the years, but here's a rundown of the most popular, and our responses.

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  1. Underfloor heating is uncontrollable. False.
  2. Underfloor heating is expensive to install. False.
  3. Underfloor heating will delay the progress of my build. False.
  4. Underfloor heating will make my feet ache. False.
  5. Underfloor heating doesn't work. False.
  6. I can't have underfloor heating upstairs. False.
  7. I can't have a wooden floor with underfloor heating. False.
  8. I can't have carpet with underfloor heating. False.

1. Underfloor heating IS controllable.
Each room has its own circuit and is individually controlled by its own thermostat so that you can make some rooms warmer than others. For instance, you would probably want your bathroom to be around 24C when your bedroom would be warm enough at 18C. Even if it's en suite your bathroom would be fitted with an individual circuit and its own controls to allow this, as long as it's big enough to swing a small cat (not that we would). Individual room temperature control is normal practice for us. You could even have your system operating automatically so that you never have to touch any of the controls, your rooms would be the same temperature all the time without you having to move a muscle. It's called an intelligent system, which includes a weather compensation facility that monitors the outside temperature and automatically adjusts the heat output of your floor depending on the temperature outside. The intelligent system is so clever that you can have it control your DHW, and any auxiliary circuit that would otherwise be controlled by timers. For example, outside lights, etc. Back to top

2. Underfloor heating is NOT expensive to install.
It's unfair to make direct comparisons between underfloor heating and radiators because the two systems are completely different and work in a completely different way. It is true to say that pound for pound underfloor heating is likely to cost you a bit more to install than a radiator system heating the same space. However, when you consider the monetary value of the space taken up by radiators that can be used for no other purpose other than heating the room, the actual cost of underfloor heating is significantly less on a pound per square foot basis than radiators. Add to this the fact that it is significantly cheaper to run than a radiator system, and over the equivalent lifetime of radiators (approximately 20 years) you would probably recoup more in savings than the additional capital outlay. It's worth considering that underfloor heating costs a fraction of the cost of a fitted kitchen that has no payback time at all and you may change some years down the line, but underfloor heating will last the lifetime of the building, will be a selling feature in these times of high fuel prices, and begins paying back from day one. If you're considering having underfloor heating on the ground floor only, and radiators upstairs to save money, think again. See our case studies for an example of why this is not much of a saving at all. Back to top

3. Underfloor heating will NOT delay building works.
There's absolutely no reason why any work should stop just because the underfloor heating is being installed. There's so much else that other trades can be doing at the same time. Early in your project we will supply you with the information that other trades will need about their involvement, much of which will be included in your quote, and we will happily speak with them should they have any queries. Take a look at the Who Needs to Know What? page for more information. The most popular time to install the pipes is when the building is wind and watertight, and before the partitions are in place. In one project we installed the pipes while the painters were finishing the walls!
Most of the builders working in and around the Scottish Borders know us and what we require from them regarding their input. Back to top

4. Underfloor heating will NOT make your feet ache.
This used to happen with older systems where electric elements were embedded in a concrete slab with no insulation below. These floors were notoriously difficult to control and used to overheat because they were running at full output trying to warm the room, while the heat they produced was disappearing through the fabric of the uninsulated building. No wonder people's feet ached. Nowadays most systems use water and the temperature can be controlled much more accurately. The actual temperature of the floor surface only needs to be slightly higher than the air temperature required in the room. The floors do not overheat because the controls are more efficient and the building is fully insulated, minimising the heat being lost. Hey presto! No pain and plenty of gain.
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5. Underfloor heating does work.
Of course it does! It worked well for the Romans, and they didn't have any room thermostats or temperature control. It's been working successfully in mainland Europe since the 70s. In fact, we have customers who have lived abroad and insisted they have it installed in their new homes because it was so reliably warm and easy to live with. Underfloor heating is a different kind of heat from what you might be used to. Radiators work by convection; they heat the air, which in turn makes you feel warm. The problem with this is that hot air rises and the heat accumulates at the top part of the room, which is great if you're a fly or Spiderman, but not much good if you spend your life with your feet firmly planted on the ground like most humans. Underfloor heating works by giving off radiant heat. This is the same as the heat we get from the sun; you feel its warmth without the air needing to be warmed. The floor effectively becomes a large thermal store that gives off a constant even heat to the people and objects in the room. You will feel warm without knowing where the heat is coming from.
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6. You can have underfloor heating upstairs.
Of course you can! We actually can't believe we're still hearing this one. You can have it in blocks of flats, airport buildings, shopping centres, hospitals, runways, car park ramps, and football pitches, you can certainly have it upstairs in your home. (We've even quoted for systems in boathouses and yachts.) We have installed hundreds of underfloor heating systems that routinely have underfloor heating in the upper floors. Only about 10% of our customers opt to fit radiators upstairs instead, although one of our case studies shows it might not be that much cheaper to do so. Fitting underfloor heating upstairs makes very good sense when you consider that these are the rooms where wall space is at a premium due to the need to accommodate bedroom furniture and bathroom fittings. Remind your architect to include it in your upper floor plans!
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7. You can have a wooden floor with underfloor heating.
We have engineered hardwood in our own home. Hardwood floors are becoming more and more popular, and are ideal for use with underfloor heating because they look good, feel warm, and do not restrict the output as much as carpets do. A good quality engineered hardwood is best because it is more thermally stable and less liable to shrink or move. A solid hardwood can be used, but these are more sensitive to large changes in temperature. Using a floor sensor to monitor and control the actual surface temperature of the floor very precisely, prevents the floor from heating above the tolerances of the hardwood floor. Soft woods such as pine should be avoided because of their low density. As a general rule, the harder the wood, the better. Please see our floor coverings page for more information. Back to top

8. You can have carpet.
The general opinion used to be that the combined rating of carpet and underlay should not exceed 1.5 TOG. However, a study showed that the actual thresholds are much higher than this, and the sensible use of carpet with underfloor heating makes little appreciable difference to the output if the TOG level is increased above 1.5. We have carpets in some of our rooms and these rooms are always at the target temperature. It is fair to say that if you chose a heavy hotel quality carpet and combined this with underlay, the output would be restricted. Prior to the wide use of underfloor heating, heavy duty carpets would have been used to stop one's feet feeling cold from the floor, but with underfloor heating, the floor is warm anyway and in a twist of irony heavy carpets become counterproductive. Whatever you place on the floor becomes an insulator and limits the output to some degree, so choose wisely. Our advice is to select a short pile carpet combined with a lightweight underlay. Again, please see our floor coverings page for more information.
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