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Underfloor Heating - A COST TO BE RECKONED WITH


Underfloor heating (UFH) is already the most popular form of heating in Europe, and is gaining popularity here in the UK. Rex Ingram, managing director at Osma Underfloor Heating discusses the cost benefits and advantages of installing a UFH system.


There are five cost factors that have to be considered when making a comparison between the costs for underfloor heating against radiator heating.

In order, these are:

1. Initial installation costs
2. Running costs
3. Maintenance costs
4. Effect on value of property
5. Sustainability

Many professionals in the building industry consider only the first of these, and make poor decisions as a consequence. It is important to assess each of these cost factors in turn to gain an appreciation of the real cost benefits of using Underfloor Heating.

Homeowners, once happy with radiators are now demanding much more from their central heating systems and have become more style conscious than ever before. However, whilst style and design are key issues for the homeowner, cost, health and safety remain high on the agenda. It is important to assess all of these factors to gain an appreciation of the real benefits of using UFH.



Initial Costs


In any project, the materials for an UFH system are more expensive than the cost of mass-produced steel radiators. However, the cost premium is reduced greatly if the radiators must be Low Surface Temperature (LSTs) and can disappear altogether if you use some forms of designer radiators.

Independent studies have shown that UFH is less expensive and quicker to install than radiators, and this leads to overall project time on site being shortened by a week or more. This is because UFH is largely a first-fix item.

On practical completion, ‘snagging’ costs are lower with UFH, and post-completion warranty costs are also generally lower. When all the initial costs are taken into account therefore, the cost of UFH is often lower than radiators even on the basis of the most simplistic comparison.


Running costs



As a consequence of being sited near to or below windows – in order to counteract the effect of downdraught from the glass - radiators lose much more energy through windows than UFH, and the heat loss through ceilings is also higher.

UFH also uses much cooler water than radiators and this ensures that: the condensing boiler operates at its most efficient condensing mode. UFH also limits the loss of heat from pipes, distributing the heat around the building when compared to radiators.

Generally, UFH is 10-25% more efficient than radiator heating, although in tall spaces such as industrial units, the savings can increase to 60-70%.


Maintenance costs


Additional savings can also be made in the form of maintenance costs. With UFH there are no radiators that need to be cleaned or re-painted, and it is much less expensive to clean and redecorate a room that does not have any obstructions on the walls.

Comfort

Comfort is a major factor within any heating installation. Whereas radiators distribute their heat by convection, resulting in a higher temperature at ceiling level, UFH works by means of radiant heating, distributing it evenly through the room with no floor draughts. This is a huge comfort factor, providing homeowners and users with warm feet, as well as low running costs and maintenance.



Convenience, safety and health


It is estimated that by not having heaters on the walls, there is 15% more space within a room, enabling homeowners to place furniture in the most convenient or desired place. However safety and health factors are also crucial as radiators can contain water at 70oc and carry a risk of contact burns and collision damage.

UFH by comparison however reaches no hotter than 29oc, approximately the temperature of the palm of your hand - much safer for young children and the elderly. For allergy sufferers, there are further benefits. UFH does not produce a strong convective air movement so the transfer of fine dust into the air within a room is minimized - a significant benefit for asthmatics.

Property value

Some property advisors have advised that a shift in the market has already occurred as a result of changes in regulations and environmental constraints. If a property is equipped with environmental facilities, such as UFH, the value of the property can increase by up to 10-15%.


Sustainability


UFH requires 40-60oc heated water, which can be easily generated by solar panels or heat pumps, if necessary. In comparison radiators generally need 60-80oc water that can only be obtained by burning gas or oil. Most new build or refurbishment properties have a design life of approximately 60-80 years and many people now doubt whether gas or oil will be readily available and affordable throughout this period.

It therefore seems inevitable that at some point within a building’s life, large surface heat emitters will have to be fitted. However retro-fitting a UFH system is often very expensive but if installed in the first instance it is both cost efficient and energy efficient.

In the future, new trends or technology may emerge, such as ceiling heating. For now, however, UFH is proving to be the desired choice for homeowners. Installers should take advantage of this growing trend whilst there is still a margin to be made.

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Timber Flooring, Underfloor Heating.

Underfloor Heating can be used successfully with almost all forms of timber floor but achieving success requires specialist knowledge. It is very easy to install the wrong sort of UFH system, which can very quickly damage an expensive hardwood floor.

By comparison, installing the right form of UFH can be the very best way of looking after a timber floor throughout its life. Osma Underfloor Heating has this knowledge plus long experience and it is the only company approved by English Heritage to provide UFH systems for Grade 1 Listed timber floors.

Over the range of temperature change in a building between heating ON and heating OFF, timber does not change dimension to any significant extent. However, it does expand and contract as its moisture-content changes, which will happen naturally as the seasons change.

Wood floors should be laid at a moisture-content of 10-11%. When the heating system is turned ON or OFF, and the moisture-content of the floor changes, it is very important to ensure that the moisture-contents of the upper and lower surfaces of the timber remain the same. If one surface becomes drier than the other, the timber will either cup or crown.

Osma Underfloor Heating products are designed to conduct heat directly into the floor deck, rather than heat the air below the floor deck. Heating the air creates a heating system that provides much lower output than an Osma system provides but it can also over-dry the underside of the timber floor.

Osma products have also been designed to work within the floor construction holistically. They allow the floor deck to be glued to the tops of joists/battens so that the strength of the floor construction can be maximised while at the same time they minimise the risk of creating floors that squeak or tick.

Osma is able to supply UFH systems that fit completely within all of the Part E Robust Standard Detail approved timber floor constructions. Also products that are manufactured from Polyfoam extruded polystyrene are available in different thicknesses, to suit different floor U value requirements.

Osma Underfloor Heating has developed a range of products that can be easily installed into timber constructions, including acoustic separating floors, which provide the user with the assured performance necessary for dry timber constructions.
 
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Recently, there has been a significant increase of interest in underfloor heating and cooling systems around the European continent. This relatively new technology is quickly becoming a must in the controlling of a rooms' temperature in all types of buildings.

An underfloor heating system, compared to that of common domestic radiators, ultimately reduces your heating costs, due to the systems' improved energy usage. They also boast a very low maintenance requirement, making it both as functional and practical as possible.

If the type of underfloor heating known as 'Wet' is used, the heat is supplied to the room by circulating warm water through an embedded pipework in the cavity between joists, or alternatively, are installed directly into the flooring slabs.

Using underfloor heating systems brings many different benefits which are easy to see. The common radiator heating system often results in the heat rising from the radiators themselves, climbing the walls of the room and usually remaining closer to the ceiling. This process generally leaves you with a warm head and sometimes cold feet. Underfloor heating systems on the other hand, heat an environment more evenly, ensuring that they provide both warm feet and body with cool air around your head.

Another type of underfloor heating, electrical, provides homeowners with a simple and low-cost option, where it is neither practical nor cost effective to retrofit the plumbing. In some properties, the amount of changes that are needed to install wet underfloor heating can be beyond what is practical, making this style of heating more of a burden to fit than its' counter-part. The electric underfloor heating systems are suitable for any room type. They can also be scaled to any sized room and they work well with any type of flooring.

If you are thinking of using underfloor heating and are worried about any implications that may interfere with the current boiler/heating system that is already installed in your home, don't hesitate to give us a call and we would be glad to help you in any way that we can.

For those people that are considering the option of using underfloor heating in their property, we recommend the use of an accumulator tank.

Accumulator tanks, also known as thermal stores, are the answer to all of the renewable energy heating and hot water needs around your property.

The accumulator tank enables a property to have the highest level of energy efficiency in all of its' water-based heating systems.

Accumulator tanks are insulated thermal storage vessels that generally range in size from 300 to 5000 litres capacity. Their primary function is to collect and store heat energy from any linked source and allow a flexible use of that heat energy. If this energy is not needed at the time of generation, the thermal tank will store it for later use.

 
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Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs)


Under floor heating and GSHPs

Ground source heat pumps produce 4 kW of heat power output for 1 kW of electricity power supply input.  This 4:1 performance ratio relates to a working temperature of the central heating system of approximately 35°C.  Standard, radiator-based central heating systems operate at around 60°C and at such high temperatures the performance ratio drops to around 2:1.  

Ground floor heating systems operate at around 35°C and are therefore well matched to GSHP systems.  The cost of a typical 8kW GSHP system, including installation, to supply an average-sized, well-insulated family home is around £6,000 which can be subsided with government grants.  At today’s fuel prices GSHPs matched with an underfloor heating system are cheaper to run than LPG, oil and electrical storage heaters.

What is a heat pump?

Heat flows naturally from a higher to a lower temperature. Heat pumps reverse this natural flow of heat, extracting heat energy from a cold source, such as the ground, and delivering it to a hot system, such as a building’s heating system.  The extracted heat is replaced by heat flowing in from the surrounding ground.  The electricity supply is used to power the ‘pump’, the majority of the heat energy coming free from the ground.

Heat pumps are not new. In fact, a refrigerator is a kind of heat pump: The heat is extracted from the air inside the fridge and released into the outside air through the grill at the back.

A ground source heat pump consists of a ground loop, the heat pump itself and the under floor heating system.   The ground loop and heat pump components are discussed in more detail below.


The ground loop


The ground loop can either be installed in a vertical bore hole or a horizontal trench.  The bore hole option is more costly but useful when space is limited.  For a typical installation a bore to a depth of around 75 to 100 m will be required. The horizontal trench option commonly uses ‘slinkies’, which are coils of plastic pipe laid in a 2 m deep trench: Below 2m the temperature remains fairly constant throughout the year.  For each kW of heat power output, 10 m of trench is required. 

Before installing the ground loop it is wise to confirm ground conditions such as depth of bedrock.  However, reputable systems will be sized for worst case UK conditions so thermal conductivity and temperature profiles are generally not required.


The heat pump


A typical heat pump unit is shown in the figure to the right.  It can be positioned either inside or outside the building.   If positioned outside a lean to is recommended to limit exposure.
 

A schematic of a heat pump system is shown in the figure below.  The ground loop circulates fluid which is at a lower temperature than the ground and therefore extracts heat from it due to natural heat flow.  The fluid returned by the ground loop is therefore at a higher temperature than when it left the heat pump but still much lower than needed by any heating system. 

The heat pump extracts this low-grade heat using a fridge-in-reverse type system and delivers the heat at a suitable temperature for the underfloor heating system.  In order for the system to
work efficiently, it is essential that the manufacturer correctly specifies the pumps, pipes and working fluids. 



 

A vertical close-lopped system
 

A horizontial close-looped system
 

The Ground Loop
 

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Completely Green


To provide the completely green option it is possible to use photovoltaic solar cells to offset the electricity used by the GSHP such that over a year the net electricity used by the combined system of GSHP and solar cells is zero.


Further Information

A wealth of further information on ground source heat pumps and quotations are available at www.kensaengineering.com/index.html.




Ground Source Heat Pumps information courtesy of Heidra, Devon and Kensa Heat Pumps.
 


 
 

 


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Devon Underfloor Heating Specialists, Nu Heat of Honiton give some useful advice on the benefits of having Underfloor Heating installed in your home.

An eco-friendly house heated for £37 per year

The project has been such a success the couple are now planning to start a specialist business designing and building energy-efficient houses.

Increasingly, homebuilders are taking a responsible attitude to conserving the earth's natural resources; as such Aileen and Dave Downie set out to build a house that would incorporate the best modern eco-technology, be warm and comfortable all year round and economical to run.

A combination of:

  • Nu-Heat warm water underfloor heating
  • Very high levels of insulation
  • Weather compensating boiler
  • Controlled whole-house ventilation with heat recovery system
  • Energy efficient glazing

All of the measures ensure a steady 70ºC has been realised with heating bills of just £37 per year.

The Downies are both committed to energy conservation, renewable materials and the health benefits of eco-friendly living all of which they have achieved without compromising style or comfort. Siting the main living areas on the first floor makes the most of both the natural light and the spacious open vaulted ceiling and aids in the efficient flow of heat around the building. The ground floor bedrooms are "cooler in summer and cosier in winter".

The project has been such a success the couple are now planning to start a specialist business designing and building energy-efficient houses for others to enjoy.

 

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Underfloor heating – better than radiators!


Heating your home with warm water underfloor heating is the modern, clean and natural way to a more comfortable living environment. Unlike radiators it is a better way of heating, saving on fuel bills and maintenance costs, freeing up room space and is a more healthy heating option as well.

Why is underfloor heating better than radiators? Radiators generate heat by drawing cold air across our feet and convecting it up towards the ceiling. In contrast, a high proportion of warmth from underfloor heating is radiant. When a high proportion of the warmth we feel is radiant, with our head slightly cooler than our feet we feel more comfortable. It feels natural because we are warmed by the sun in exactly the same way. We feel warmer in the sun than we do in the shade because the sun warms us directly by radiation. With underfloor heating the warmth is where we stand and sit with our head being slightly cooler than our feet, making ideal human comfort conditions. Again because a high proportion of the warmth is radiant with little generation of convection currents, the loss of heat from the building through walls, windows and ceilings is reduced too saving you money on your energy bills.

You can have underfloor heating installed in every room, upstairs and down, and in doing so, remove the intrusion of radiators which are only there for their function, not their beauty. Radiators take up valuable wall and floor space and by eliminating them you will gain extra room for furniture or wall decoration. All of a sudden you will be free to completely re-design your room space the way you want it. Another benefit is that the low heat gradients and low humidity variations characteristic of underfloor heating create a kind environment for you and for your furniture, antique or modern.

 

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Experience A New Level Of Comfort
with Under Floor Heating

Warmth in our homes is something we have long taken forgranted. UFH is more comfortable than radiators, find out below.
Warm water underfloor heating provides a kind of warmth that is more natural and more comfortable than that of radiators. It makes no intrusion on room space and saves on fuel and maintenance costs.

Not so: radiators generate heat by drawing cold air across our feet and convecting it towards the ceiling. In contrast, a high proportion of warmth from underfloor heating is radiant (typically 80%). We are most comfortable when a high proportion of the warmth we feel is radiant, with our head slightly cooler than our feet. It's nature's way. It feels natural because it is natural. We are warmed by the sun in exactly the same way. We feel warmer in the sun than we do in the shade because the sun warms us directly by radiation. It also warms the ground we stand on.

Underfloor heating concentrates the warmth where we stand and sit. We experience our head being slightly cooler than our feet, making ideal human comfort conditions.

With Nu-Heat you can experience underfloor heating in every room, upstairs and down. Call today on 0800 731 1976 for more information.

 

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