Why Underfloor Heating?
This section is for those who are unsure as to the merits of Underfloor Heating (UFH) in a general way or would like to be further convinced of its merits!
If you are happy with Underfloor Heating as your preferred space heating method and need to select an installer, please go to the section on “Why MultiBeton”!
In Ireland, hydronic / “wet” central heating systems are very common. Examples of such systems include underfloor heating (UFH) and radiator heating.
Underfloor Heating which gives radiant heat, is generally more efficient, effective, economical, safer, more “human friendly” (comfort and health wise) and requires less maintenance than the radiator approach which is based on convection heat.
There are two parts to the inherent advantages of Underfloor Heating. The first stems from the natural benefits of radiant heat and the second is due to the nature of underfloor heating itself.
The benefits of radiant heat over convection heat
Radiant heat transfers heat directly from the source to the individual or an object and is the most effective manner of heat transfer.
Heat spreads upwards from the feet to the head for a standing person, making that person feel more comfortable. This is in contrast with convective heat which tends to heat the head first but can leave the feet still feeling cold, along with a larger body temperature gradient (more than 3 degrees), generally resulting in more discomfort for the individual.
The skin has a faster perception of comfort with radiant heat as evolution has enabled the skin to absorb radiant heat faster – due to the sun’s heat.
Radiant heat is spread in a gentle and silent manner. It does not cause air to circulate in a room / area, so it does not constantly distribute dust or allergens – this is a significant help to asthma and allergy sufferers.
Room average temperatures can be reduced as a result by one to two degrees, thus the lower temperature distribution in UFH gives greater economy than that for the radiator approach.
Radiant heat also allows air humidity to remain at a higher degree, which is beneficial for health.
It is also more beneficial in reducing condensation and mould formation on walls and ceilings.
The direct benefits of underfloor heating
It can be used with a wide variety of energy sources that heat the water circulating in the UFH heating pipes, including gas, oil and solid fuel fired boilers. It is a suitable companion to heat pumps and even solar power as the circulating water temperature in the pipes is generally in the region of 40 to 50 degrees Celsius.
It can be left on for longer periods than its radiator rival for the same cost (other variables being equal).
It allows for more temperature variation between rooms as each room generally has its own circuit back to the manifold and so can be controlled by its own thermostat.
UFH is safer than the more highly heated radiator system – consider the situation of younger children brushing up against hot radiators.
The lack of need for radiators frees up space that would otherwise be used up and thus enhances the clean lines of a room / area.
It generally requires less maintenance as there are fewer moving parts in UFH and installation work is generally more thorough, particularly in the case of MULTIBETON.
There are no cold spots in a room / area so that a room can be fully used, especially in winter time.
There are studies that point to the beneficial effects (e.g. reduced aches and pains) when one rests horizontally on a warm surface such as UFH can provide.
In summary, UFH is more efficient, economical, safer, is more "human friendly" (comfort and health wise) and requires less maintenance than the radiator approach - and is also superior over other heat distribution approaches (such as, for example, forced air)
UFH is also superior to other forms of heat distribution approaches, such as forced air.
It is important to stress, in any case, the need for significant insulation, a reasonable level of air tightness and appropriate system controls with UFH – as with any heating distribution system. Proper design, installation and operation is also absolutely vital to its success.
As regards slower heating response time due to a higher thermal mass of the heat distribution source in UFH, specifically flooring, the time frame can be appropriately addressed through design, insulation, air tightness, system controls and the thermal conductivity of the materials used. There are wider material options available when the form of UFH used is wall or ceiling based, where floors, in exceptional circumstances, have to omit UFH in order to take only loading and /or be very durable .
Key system considerations
This section describes some of the key components of Underfloor heating , particularly from the perspective of choosing underfloor heating as your preferential heating mode.
Key aspects / elements of UFH systems are addressed on the below pages. A broad understanding of these aspects, in addition to the general reasons provided above, will assist you greatly in understanding the primary criteria to use for decision making in this area.