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Last edited 26 May 2018
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Underfloor heating (UFH) is a form of heating in which the floor surface of a space is heated and this heat is then radiated (and convected) throughout the space to create comfortable thermal conditions. It has been used for thousands of years as a form of space heating, most notably by the Romans, whose hypocaust system consisted of a raised floor through which warm air and smoke were drawn to heat the floor before being discharged through flues.
Underfloor heating systems tend to be low-temperature systems, as the heating surface covers a much larger area than conventional radiators which because of their relatively small size have to operate at a high temperature.
Underfloor heating can be installed on new-build projects, or retrofitted into existing spaces. It can be installed as the primary heating system or used to provide additional, localised heating in specific spaces such as bathrooms. It may be used in combination with renewable heat sources, thermal mass and night-time purging.
 Electric underfloor heating
Electric underfloor heating systems can sit beneath stone, tile, wood or even carpeted surfaces. A series of electric wires installed beneath or within the floor finish provide the heating element. There are a number of product types available, including loose-fit wiring, modular systems and heating mats.
The design of the installation will depend on the space size and dimensions, how well insulated it is, the nature of the flooring structure and the type of flooring covering. Generally, on new-build projects, cables or electric heating sheets are fitted beneath the floor finish on a layer of screed and insulation which ensure the floor is level and that the heat travels upwards into the space.
 Hydronic underfloor heating
A fluid flowing hydronic system generally consists of a series of looped pipes connected to a boiler that circulate warm water through the floor. This needs enough space for the installation of piping and insulation and so floor levels may need to be elevated which can be difficult when retrofitting, increasing costs and disruption. For this reason they tend be better suited to new-build projects.
They can be more expensive to install than electrical systems, but may be less expensive to operate.
- Underfloor heating can be considered more healthy, separating heating from ventilation, and so reducing draughts and problems associated with dust, pollen and other pollutants.
- It can be more durable, quieter and easier to maintain.
- It creates a more comfortable, even temperature distribution.
- It can be space saving and unobtrusive.
- It can be quieter than conventional radiators or HVAC systems.
- It can be less expensive to run in certain situations.
- It can be expensive and disruptive to install.
- It may restrict the selection of floor coverings.
- It may restrict room layout.
- It can be less effective at cooling, and cool surfaces can create condensation issues.
- It can be difficult to repair.
- Depending on the system, it can take longer to heat up and cool down than conventional systems.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building services.
- Building services engineer.
- Corrosion in heating and cooling systems.
- Heat pump.
- Radiant heating.
- Thermal comfort.
- Tiled floors with underfloor heating: A guide to minimising and repairing cracking.
- Types of heating system.
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