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Electric vs Water UFH

It’s the most commonly searched question when people consider underfloor heating. Electric or Hydronic? Commonly also referred to as Dry (electric) or Wet (water).

So, where do you begin?

Let’s start with electric systems - What are the advantages?

They can be sourced and installed by professional companies or can even be found and purchased directly from your local DIY retailer. They can be appealing due to the low purchase and installation costs and have the added benefit of being low profile, so floor build up is kept to a minimum. You can even find in screed systems that can be fitted within a traditional screed and are normally a cost-effective method of installation in new build properties. Premium quality UFH electric heating matts can be more robust and are capable of excellent w/m2 output. Use of floor probes mean that the floor/surface temperature can also be controlled accurately which is also a must to ensure that any overheating and damage to the floor covering is prevented. It is recommended that electric UFH is connected to a fused spur with an RCD on the circuit for isolation. Very much suitable for small areas up to 10sq.m, such as en suite / bathroom areas (non-primary living space).

And the disadvantages?

Overall running costs of electric UFH is deemed as the major disadvantage. Although electric systems are much cheaper to install compared to a hydronic system, the benefits of saving money on the initial installation is soon consumed by your monthly energy bills. This is more easily understood when you review the advantages of a wet system and how that works by using water from the existing central heating system but running it at a much lower temperature. Electric UFH is only normally considered when installing into small or tricky areas rather than the entire house. Some electric UFH suppliers are also known to recommend a water system as again the running costs will be cheaper. Reliability of electric systems is also something to be considered. With most online reviews or feedback, UFH is given a considerably rough time, focused on bad user experiences based upon unreliability. Most commonly, reviews incorporating negative feedback are based on an electric systems running costs or poor method of installation. People then go back to using a conventional radiator and turning the UFH off altogether. Running costs are manageable the moment the system is installed into small areas (up to 10 sq.m) and not used as primary heat source and/or not installed into primary living areas such as kitchens, lounges, etc.

And now for the hydronic system – What are the advantages?

The main advantage is the overall running cost once the system has been installed. By taking the water used in the current central heating system that normally supplies radiators, the manifolds required in order to run a wet UFH system blend the normal 70°C water running temperature into a mixing pump in order to run lower temperature water through the pipes that are beneath the floor finish. As wet UFH uses lower water temperatures, this not only shaves a percentage off your overall energy bill, it is also proven to be 25% more efficient than using radiators when paired with a modern condensing boiler. Individual zoning (multiple room thermostats) allows you to control wet UFH with a greater level of detail and increases efficiency and level of comfort. Another major advantage of wet UFH is its ability to be paired with renewable technologies such as Ground/Air Source Heat Pumps and Solar Thermal. A gas or oil boiler heats water anywhere to a temperature of 65 – 85°C whereas a heat pump generates hot water of around 40°C. Various systems of wet UFH are available on the market. From traditional pipe in screed installations, to overlay systems. Wet UFH is mostly installed as a primary heat source throughout your premises and removes the need for radiators so long as the insulation in the property meets reasonable standards. There are many different methods of installing wet systems to choose from. Why choose JK to install your UFH? You will have to read on.

So, what are the disadvantages?

The initial installation cost. As opposed to electric installation which is cheaper, wet systems do carry a higher installation cost because of the materials used, such as manifold, circulation pump and UFH pipes. Concerns about bursts in the pipes when they are laid under the floor is also a main concern, with most people put off by the potential of a burst or leak occurring below the floor once the pipes and final floor finish have been laid. However, most providers of UFH will guarantee their pipework for 50-100 years as pipe material is extremely durable. Commonly known as PE-RT or PEX, which are multi layered pipe products.Only a select few wet UFH suppliers will provide the “full” installation. This means that most provide design and supply, others do design, supply and install, whereas most systems still need to be connected to the main central heating system by a local heating engineer / electrician and then supply and fit wiring centres and room stats. Finally, unlike with electric systems which are wired into a fused spur and controlled by being either switched on or off, a wet UFH system requires a manifold in order to have all of the flow and return pipework connected to it. People often mistake a manifold to be the size of a traditional radiator, but this quite simply isn’t the case as it’s a small unit which can be easily boxed in or hidden in a stair case cupboard. It does however ideally need to be centrally located in the property (based on larger installations) in order to ensure that metres of flow/return pipework are kept to a minimum. This ensures an effective and even more efficient operation of the system.

Why then choose UFH at all? What are the overall advantages when compared to radiators?

More and more people opt for underfloor heating because the benefits are very clear. To start with, underfloor heating provides the most comfortable and uniform level of warmth. Research has shown that by using underfloor heating the ideal room temperature is approximately one to two degrees Celsius lower in comparison to other traditional heating systems. Keep in mind that one degree Celsius reduces the energy consumption by five to six percent! In addition, underfloor heating systems are categorized as Low Temperature Heating (LTH). This means that they can easily be combined with other heating systems already in place because of the low water flow temperature, which is below 55°C. This includes High Efficient (HE) boilers for example, which reach their maximum efficiency under this same set flow temperature. Besides that, benefits are found by not having radiators anymore. Saving space, being more hygienic, enabling flexible room lay-outs (furniture) and no risk to injure or burn from a hot radiator in the room. Open space living plans often do not allow for radiators, considering the low number of walls and larger glass areas (e.g. bi-folds) Finally, heat pumps, solar water heaters and other renewable heat sources are not utilised to their full potential when temperatures above 55°C are used because they are made for lower water flow temperatures. Since these sustainable heat sources are likely to be installed more frequently in the years to come, we are convinced that underfloor heating is the solution for the future.

So why choose JK for UFH? What makes us uniquely different from the rest?

The top screed of your existing floor is grooved using a specially designed and patented floor grinder. This eliminates the need to alter the subfloor by either excavating or raising it which is often very expensive or complicated because of the construction. The JK floor grinder creates grooves in the screed into which the heating pipes are inserted. The in-built vacuum with removable cylinder means a maintained dustless operation throughout the installation process. Since the JK grinding method uses a specially constructed industrial diamond grinding disc it can be applied to 99% of all floor surfaces, making it unnecessary to remove or raise the existing screed with this method. Furthermore, it is also possible to easily install the JK underfloor heating system into different substrates such as screed, concrete and suspended timber flooring. For the latter of the floor types, plain dry-construction panels such as gypsum are required to complete a bespoke JK UFH installation. Another desirable feature of in-ground underfloor heating is that it is more comfortable and energy-efficient. As the heating pipes are installed directly under the surface of the floor, this allows the floor temperature to rise much faster, so the room temperature can be controlled much more accurately. As a result, your energy usage is lower and therefore your energy bill as well! Moreover, because of the low water flow temperature (35-45 °C) required by the JK underfloor heating system it is an excellent asset that can be easily combined with other modem and renewable energy sources.