Underfloor heating is a form of central heating that uses heat conduction and radiant heat for indoor climate control. It can be used with concrete and wooden floors and with all types of flooring. It warms the lower part of both the room and the body giving off a feeling of natural warmth. Most systems are either warm water systems or electric systems. Systems can be a poured floor system, in which the system is encapsulated in a masonry mix, or it can be a sub floor system in which it is attached directly to the subfloor. While there are differences and similarities between the two systems, both are energy efficient, space saving, and healthier than conventional heating systems.
Water underfloor heating consists of warm water being circulated through pipes or tubes that are laid into the floor. Since this system allows water to circulate by thermosiphon, it is prone to blockage by air bubbles that accumulate in the high spots and block the flow of water. A pump will need to be used for purging to allow the water to circulate through the tubing fast enough to dislodge the air bubble. The pump will activate when the system stalls and will shut off when circulation is restored. With the electric alternative, the heat is spread throughout cables placed in the floor. There is no need to be concerned about blockage or purging with an electric heating system.
With hot water heating, you will need a pressure reducing valve to reduce the city water pressure to the lowest point needed for the heating system, an air separator to take the air out of fresh water, and an expansion tank to accommodate the change in water volume in the system as the water heats up and cools down. Electric underfloor heating does not require such sophisticated equipment. You will need cable or a cable mat, insulation, tile adhesive, and a thermostat to install the system.
Water underfloor heating systems can also be used in reverse with cold water being placed in the system to take the heat out of a building. When using this method, the surface temperatures must remain above the air’s dew point temperature to prevent mold growth and slipping hazards. Electric heating systems are not designed to take the heat out of a building or room. However, if the sun is shining on an area that is heated by electric cables, the heat will turn off and allow the sun to naturally heat the area.
With water systems, soil can influence downward heat loss. Heated and cooled surfaces need to be isolated from vents, cold plumbing lines, and appliances. Dew point control is a major concern for wet systems. Another concern is control and expansion of the floor joints and crack suppression in concrete and tiled surfaces. With the electric heating systems, floor buildup is not a problem because the electric cables are installed onto an insulation board or directly onto the subfloor with the floor covering placed directly over the heating system. Adhesive is applied between the layers and prevents cracks from forming in the floor.
Water systems are expensive to install but increase energy efficiency in the home from ten to forty percent. The piping can have a lifespan of up to one hundred years and is almost maintenance free. The central heating equipment, pumps, and controls will require periodic maintenance and replacement. Electric underfloor heating systems have a very low installation cost because they are easy to install and have a low start up cost. All that is required is a thermostat. All you need to do is start at your thermostat and roll the heating cable or heating cable mat out over the floor. They also need no maintenance and can be more easily controlled to run when they are needed.
Both hot water and electric heating systems can heat an entire room or heat specific zones in the room. For a hot water underfloor heating system to control specific zones, you will need zone valves on the pump to divide the hot water flow to each zone that requires heat. With an electric system, you will simply use more than one thermostat for zone control heating.
Both hot water and electric underfloor heating allows the lower part of the room and body to be warmed by heat. Since the heating is installed close to the floor surface, warming up a room is faster than conventional heating. The heat spreads over the entire area which reduces heat loss without overheating the surrounding area.
Since both hot water electric heating are buried under the floor, the floor is like one giant radiator. There are no hot spots creating large air currents that carry dust particles around the room. Since both underfloor heating systems cause less air movement, they reduce the circulation of pollution, dust, and allergens.
Both systems make it possible to lower the thermostat without any loss of warmth. Both systems provide a lower air temperature that lets you feel warmer at a lower temperature because the systems lower the heat loss from your body. However, the efficiency of a hot water system is slightly higher than an electric system. With a hot water system, the boiler hot water temperature can be set to the relatively low temperature. With an electric system, overall efficiency is lower because electricity must be generated from heat in a power plant.
While there are advantages and disadvantages to both underfloor heating systems, both are comfortable, healthy, space saving and energy efficient when it comes to heating areas in your home. There will be no air vents to worry about and no unsightly radiators taking up valuable space in your living area. Replacing a conventional heating system with either a hot water or an electric underfloor heating system can save you space while keeping you comfortably warm and healthy.
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