Underfloor Heating: Hot Water vs Electric

radiant floor heating system
  • 10-100 hours
  • Advanced
  • 600-15,000

Underfloor heating is a type of radiant heating, wherein the heat is transmitted by means of conduction and radiation. Underfloor heating consists of three main types: systems that carry air, water, or electric coils as the means of heat transmission. Systems that function on heated water and on electric coils are the most popular. Some of the main differences between these two underfloor heating systems are outlined below.

1. Fuel Options

A hot water underfloor heating system consists of a central boiler that is connected to a network of pipes. The boiler pumps hot water to the pipes, which carry the heat to different parts of the building. You can use one of several different fuel sources such as gas, diesel, wood or electricity to heat up the water in the boiler. In contrast, with an electric underfloor heating system, you can only use electricity. Hot water underfloor heating systems provide more flexibility and choice in terms of fuel.

2. Cost of Installation and Operation

radiant flooring coils

Underfloor water heating systems are much more expensive to install as compared to the electric versions. In addition to laying the pipes underneath the floor, there is also the cost of purchase and installation of the boiler. Electric underfloor heating systems are much cheaper to install and the process takes much less time as well. Another advantage with electric systems is that minimal space is required for fitting the electric coils underneath the floor. You can conserve more space if you install an electric system as compared to a hot water system, which requires bulkier pipes.

3. Installation

For both electric and hot water underfloor heating systems, installation is best performed during a renovation or during new construction. Both systems require the floor to be open. Electric system installation consists of laying electric coils underneath the flooring and encasing them in blankets. The flooring is laid on top of the coils. Hot water system installation consists of laying pipes under the floor and connecting the pipes to a central boiler that will provide the heated water.

4. Efficiency

installing radiant flooring

Though hot water underfloor systems are costly to purchase and install, they are often more economical to run over a long term. This is because the water retains its heat for a long time. Though hot water heating systems are slow to start up because the water needs to be heated up, they can keep a place warm for several hours even after the system is switched off. When installed properly in a well insulated home, underfloor hot water systems can save you a considerable amount of money and energy. Electric underfloor heating systems have smaller reaction times and provide quick results. However, the heat also wears off quickly once the system is switched off.

5. Ease of Maintenance

Both electric and hot water underfloor heating systems are quite reliable and long lasting. However, if there is a glitch, repairs and maintenance can be very cumbersome and costly. This is especially true of hot water systems, because there is the added risk of water leaks and structural damage.