Do you feel underfloor heating is out of your reach?

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Lots of new homes and extensions boast underfloor heating. After all, who wouldn't want their crisp new space to be free of ugly wall mounted radiators.

The benefits of underfloor heating are well known:

  • * even temperature across the room
  • * draught free - no convection currents
  • * clear, unstuffy, air
  • * limits spread of dust
  • * none of the hard, sharp, corners and surfaces you get with radiators
  • * no dangerously hot surfaces

But how can you get underfloor heating, or a simple plug in floor heater, in your existing home?

3 Underfloor Heating Options

Extra floor level warmth where you need it with an under rug heaterA quick and flexible solution is an on-the-floor heater that you cover with a rug and simply plug in. Your flooring remains undisturbed and you can move the on-the-floor heater anywhere you need it in the house. You can even take it with you if you move. Try that with underfloor heating!

The RugBuddy under-rug heater, as it's known, works in the same way as the new electric underfloor heating systems described below. It's a bit like an electric blanket you simply spread out on the floor and cover with a rug.

RugBuddy is as powerful as underfloor heating systems (about 120 Watts per m2) and quickly warms the surface of the rug. It's an ideal solution where you would otherwise end up feeling cold after sitting for a while. Why not have one:

  • * in front of your favourite chair or sofa
  • * under the kitchen table
  • * at your workstation or desk
  • * in a conservatory or cold extension?

Running costs are low - about 4p per hour for a typical 125 x 160 cm RugBuddy - and when you get your electricity from renewable sources, electric heating is as environmentally friendly as you can get.

If you want something installed, a conventional water-based system involves ripping up the floors, laying out a maze of pipes, and finding space for a complicated manifold to connect to your boiler. And then you face a life of maintaining the boiler, valves, and pumps for it all to work. This is not viable, or attractive, to most people.

Instead many opt for electric floor heating which is a great choice when you are also changing your floor finish. Nowadays there are systems to go under tiles, wood, laminate, carpet, and even vinyl, with air and floor temperatures controlled in each room by the thermostat controller. See The Room by Room Heating Revolution for more on this aspect of electric floor heating.

The best electric systems sit on insulation directly under the floor finish. When switched on from cold, they quickly heat the floor surface. This responsiveness means the floor will also cool quickly when the thermostat controller signals the room is up to temperature - perfect should the sun start to stream through the windows.

New electric systems save you from the 'storage heater effect' you get with old systems set in a heavy concrete screed. The weight (thermal mass) of the screed means old systems take a long time to heat up, and they continue to give off heat even when the system has switched off. Understandably, old thermal mass systems have a troubled reputation for comfort and running costs.

So, we have 3 choices for bringing that underfloor heating feeling to our homes:

  • * a simple and effective on-the-floor plug in heater like RugBuddy
  • * a traditionally installed piped water system, powered by your boiler, requiring ongoing maintenance
  • * a modern electric system that responds quickly to the ambient temperature

We used to think gas central heating with wall mounted radiators was the cleanest and most economical way to comfortably heat the home. But the direction of travel is now firmly towards electric floor heating.