Under Floor Heating Systems That Keep More Than Your Feet Warm
Starting out mostly being installed in bathrooms and kitchens underfloor heating has now spread throughout the house. There are many good reasons for this. The first and foremost is that underfloor heating systems spreads a pleasant heat.
In the marketing of these heating systems it is often argued that one can save energy, because you can keep a lower indoor temperature. However, you should know that this assumes that your room or house is designed to be suitable for underfloor heating, otherwise the electricity consumption will actually increase.
– The right design means that the heating system should be properly chosen and installed correctly, and that the thermal insulation in the walls and floors should be sufficient, If your main goal with installing a new under floor heating system is to save energy, you can turn off the system when the winter is over. The problem is that when it is installed under a stone or tile surface the tiles are often perceived as cold. Therefore most people have their underfloor heating systems installed mainly for comfort and convenience, and keep it on all year round. However, if your floors are properly insulated towards the ground and the system is working properly you should be able to reduce the indoor temperature and still maintain a comfortable temperature.
In summary, one of the main benefits of underfloor heating is that you typically can lower the room temperature one to two degrees with a properly installed system, because we perceive the temperature as comfortable when our feet are warm.
Potential problems with underfloor heating
If your house is properly insulated and with the correct system installed you should be able to save energy – but with the wrong installation your electricity costs can not only increase, it can also cause moisture damage to your property. For example, if you install underfloor heating in an uninsulated basement or other living space with direct ground contact this can easily cause a problem, especially if the soil is damp and/or poorly drained. The heat from the floor will warm up the ground underneath the house and the moisture can then be transported from the warm ground beneath the house and up along the inside of the wall, causing you a serious moisture problem and potentially even mold.
How to make sure you have the right floor
A good rule of thumb is that there should be plenty of insulation against the ground underneath your floor heating system, preferably at least 250 millimeters. The challenge is to ensure that the thermal resistance down towards the ground is large, and heat resistance up into the house is small. With a careless installation and poor insulation most of the heat could be used to heating the soil. Potentially as much as a third of the energy could be lost into the ground due to poor insulation. With this in mind it is also wise to consider the surface material of your flooring. Parquet flooring actually hold back the heat and prevent it from entering the house. In addition, wood floors with underfloor heating often crack because the heating in the floor dries out the wood.
Under floor heating is a low-temperature heating system. This means that the floor surface temperature does not need to be more than a few degrees higher than the desired room temperature. However, it is important that the heat is transported quickly and efficiently from the heating cables or tubes to the air in the room. Therefore, the surface material should preferably have good thermal conductivity. Porous materials such as textiles and wood conducts heat poorly and therefore result in lower energy efficiency than hard and heavy materials such as natural stone and ceramic tile.
Life expectancy of a good system
Many people wonder how long underfloor heating systems normally lasts.
A correctly installed system should last for at least 30-40 years, and probably even longer. Cables for 230 volts have a very long life and if any damage occurs it can normally be addressed. A good underfloor heating system can normally be considered very reliable. Parts that may need to be replaced after more than 15 years include the electronic equipment, such as thermostats, which normally have a shorter life span than the power cord/floor heating pipe.
There have been some discussions regarding the potential dangers with the magnetic field around the heating cables. However, if the heating cable is a two-wire cable (which is normal), the current flows in two directions. Therefore the magnetic fields in large part cancel each other out. The heating cables used in a modern system are well shielded and do not by create larger magnetic fields than ordinary power cords in a home.
There is a lot to consider before deciding to install underfloor heating in your house, but I hope this article has given you some guidance as to if such a system is likely to be suitable for your home.