Heating Your Home: Underfloor Heating in Australia

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Underfloor heating

No one likes to wake up on a cold winter morning, only to step on the freezing floor in bare feet. If you’re looking for a fix to this problem, underfloor heating might be the perfect solution. While underfloor heating might seem like an unattainable luxury to some, it’s not nearly as expensive as it sounds and can even save money on your heating costs in the long term. If you’re interested in an underfloor system, or want to learn more, continue reading below about how underfloor heating works and how you can start to benefit from this home appliance.

What is underfloor heating?

Underfloor heating is a way to heat your home through the floor. Coils or cables run through the floor of your home, which are then heated through either electricity or with heated water. As heat rises, the warmth is distributed around the room at a consistent temperature. Unlike other home heating methods, the elements in underfloor heating are hidden, freeing up space in your room and allowing for a less disruptive design.

In addition, while radiators and other heating systems like ducted heating blow hot air into the room, kicking up dust and allergens and leaving the potential for cold spots, underfloor heating does not require the use of fans and heat a space more evenly.

Types of underfloor heating

There are two types of underfloor heating systems available, one which uses electric cables and one which utilizes water pumped through pipes (known as hydronic or wet underfloor heating). While both of these underfloor heating systems essentially do the same thing, there are some key differences between them which can greatly affect which type of system is best suited for your home.

Electric underfloor heating vs hydronic underfloor heating systems
Electric underfloor heatingHydronic underfloor heating
  • Utilize electric cables to generate heat
  • Cheaper upfront cost
  • Easier to retrofit into existing homes
  • More expensive running costs
  • Ideal for smaller homes or rooms
  • Difficult to use as a primary heating source
  • Less energy efficient in the long term
  • Utilize water pumps to send warm water through the floor
  • More expensive upfront cost
  • Difficult to retrofit into existing properties
  • Cheaper running costs
  • Recommended for larger properties
  • Can be combined with solar heat pumps to further reduce running costs
  • More energy efficient

Beyond electric and hydronic underfloor heating, there are three methods of underfloor heating installation.

 In-slab heating: The heating element is installed directly into a slab of concrete when it’s poured. This is the slowest heating method as the concrete must first warm up before being transferred to your floor and then the room. Most hydronic underfloor heating methods are installed this way.

 In-screed heating: The heating element is embedded between a slab of concrete with a thin layer poured over the top. Unlike in-slab heating, in-screed heating takes less time to warm up as there is less concrete to heat.

 Under-tile heating: The easiest underfloor heating system to install. The heating unit is a very thin mat installed directly under tile or a rug. Often this can be installed yourself, but larger systems, or systems where the floor might get wet such as a bathroom or kitchen, should be installed by a professional.

Which type of underfloor heating is best for my home?

Choosing the best type of underfloor heating for your home depends on a number of factors, as shown above.

If you’re looking to add underfloor heating to an existing property, particularly one that is smaller, or just looking to add underfloor heating to a single room such as the kitchen or bathroom, electric is probably your best option. If you’re looking for a total-home heating system for your newly built property, however, hydronic underfloor heating might be more expensive upfront but can greatly reduce your electricity bill over the long term.

How much does underfloor heating cost to install?

As stated, there are different types of underfloor heating systems and different methods of installation. Depending on the type of system and how you want it installed, the cost of installing underfloor heating will vary. In general, however, the cost of underfloor heating can run you about:

  • $30 per square meter for electric in-slab underfloor heating
  • $70 per square meter for hydronic in-slab underfloor heating
  • $100 per square meter for hydronic in-screed underfloor heating

It’s important to consider other factors that might affect the cost. Insulation when installing underfloor heating is incredibly important, as you’ll want your heating system to not only run as efficiently as possible but also just heat up your home as quickly as possible. Improper insulation can allow heat to escape around the sides and under your floor, leading to less warmth and more expensive running costs.

How much does underfloor heating cost to run?

Despite the initially high installation cost, the actual running costs of underfloor heating systems is relatively low compared to radiators or other heating systems. This is due to a number of factors but one of the biggest is that underfloor heaters (whether electric or hydronic), don’t need to be heated to the same degree as other heating methods. Not only is this great for homes with children and animals, who won’t burn themselves by accidentally touching heating elements, but it means less energy is needed to heat up your home or room.

Many other factors also go into the cost of running an underfloor heating system. As stated above, electric underfloor systems are more expensive to run than hydronic underfloor systems, and the type of installation (in-slab or in-screed) means more or less energy is needed to first heat the concrete before it reaches your floor and then the room. In addition, the level of insulation in your home and around your floor also means more or less energy is needed to warm up your home and keep it warm.

If you’re opting for a hydronic underfloor heating system, you can bring the cost of running it down to practically zero if you choose to incorporate a heat pump or solar water heater alongside your underfloor system. Using solar energy or the ambient air to heat up your water for underfloor heating means you don’t need to rely on electricity or gas to heat your home, and considering most households spend approximately 40% of their energy consumption on heating and cooling their home this is no small amount to save annually on your energy bill.

Pros and cons of underfloor heating

So, should you consider underfloor heating?

While it may seem like an expensive option to heat your home, the benefits might outweigh the disadvantages. Not only is underfloor heating more aesthetically pleasing, allowing for a more open home design without disruptive radiators, it can be more economic and save money in the long term.

However, retrofitting your current home with underfloor heating isn’t always possible, and it’s best to ask around and speak to a professional to find out if it’s a possibility with your house. Underfloor heating is also only an immovable heater, versus other systems such as portable air conditioners which can function as portable heaters as well. 

Advantages and disadvantages of underfloor heating
Pros of underfloor heatingCons of underfloor heating
  • Allows for more flexibility in renovating or designing your home
  • Cheaper running costs compared to other methods of home heating
  • Reduces the spread of allergens, dust, and dirt
  • Quieter than other heating systems
  • Doesn’t get as hot as other heating systems, meaning little fingers won’t get burnt
  • Heat rises and can be safely used to hang dry clothes verus buying a dryer
  • Expensive upfront cost
  • Retrofitting your home can be disruptive or difficult
  • Difficult to alter once installed
  • Takes longer to heat up than other home heating methods
  • Cannot double as an air conditioning system

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