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Is underfloor heating better than radiators?

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Summary: Wondering if underfloor heating is better than radiators? Explore the pros, cons, and key considerations when deciding between the comfort and efficiency of underfloor heating (UFH) compared to traditional radiators. This guide helps you make the most informed decision for your lifestyle and budget.*

What is underfloor heating and how does it work?

Underfloor heating (UFH) transforms your floor into a large, gentle radiator. A network of either electric heating cables or water-filled pipes is installed beneath your floor surface. As these elements warm up, they radiate heat upwards, creating a comfortable, even temperature throughout the entire space. This radiant heat method provides warmth directly to objects and people in the room, leading to a more consistent and comfortable feel compared to traditional heating systems.

Types of underfloor heating: Which one is right for you?

Choosing the right underfloor heating system depends on your specific needs and project type. Here’s a breakdown of the two main types:

  • Electric underfloor heating: Electric UFH systems use a network of heating cables installed beneath your flooring. These systems are generally easier to install and are ideal for smaller areas, renovations where you cannot significantly raise floor heights, or as a supplementary heating source in specific rooms like bathrooms.

  • Wet underfloor heating (hydronic): Wet systems circulate hot water through a network of pipes embedded within your floor. They are often connected to your central heating boiler and are better suited for larger areas or new build projects. Wet systems offer greater heat output, making them a good choice for primary heating in well-insulated homes.

The best type of underfloor heating for you depends on factors like the size of the space, the type of flooring you have, whether it’s a renovation or new build, and your budget.

Radiators: The familiar and traditional heating system

Radiators are the most common type of heating system in older homes. They are wall-mounted units, typically filled with hot water from your central heating system. Radiators work primarily through convection – they heat the air, which then rises and circulates around the room, creating currents of warm and cool air. While effective, this can lead to an uneven distribution of heat, with areas near the radiator feeling warmer and areas further away remaining cooler.

Underfloor heating vs radiators: Pros and cons

Now, let’s delve into a detailed comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of underfloor heating and radiators to help you make an informed decision:

Underfloor Heating

  • Pros:

    • Even heat distribution: UFH eliminates cold spots, providing consistent luxurious warmth throughout the entire room.
    • Energy efficiency: Due to radiant heat and the ability to operate at lower temperatures, UFH systems can be more energy-efficient, potentially reducing your heating costs over time.
    • Aesthetics: With no visible heating elements, UFH provides design flexibility and frees up wall space for furniture and décor.
    • Improved air quality: UFH reduces air circulation compared to radiators, minimizing dust movement and potentially contributing to better air quality.
  • Cons:

    • Higher installation costs: Especially for wet systems, upfront installation costs can be more significant than radiator systems.
    • Slower response time: UFH systems take longer to heat up a room compared to radiators, so they might not be ideal if you need very quick heat boosts.
    • Potential floor height increase: In renovations, adding UFH could raise the floor level slightly. It’s essential to assess if this is feasible within your existing space.


  • Pros:

    • Faster heat-up: Radiators provide a quick burst of warmth, making them suitable for rooms that need occasional heating.
    • Lower installation cost: Generally, radiators are a less expensive option to install, especially if you’re adding them to a home with an existing central heating system.
    • Localised heating: Radiators offer targeted warmth for specific rooms, making them useful if you don’t heat your entire home continuously.
  • Cons:

    • Uneven heating: Radiators can create warm and cool zones in a room, potentially leaving parts of the room feeling less comfortable.
    • Occupy wall space: Radiators limit furniture placement options.
    • Dust circulation: The convection currents created by radiators can stir up dust and allergens within a room.

Other factors to consider when choosing between underfloor heating or radiators

Beyond the core pros and cons, here are a few additional things to keep in mind:

  • Your existing heating system: If you need to replace a boiler or have an older heating system, the upfront cost difference between UFH and radiators might narrow when factoring in necessary upgrades.

  • Home insulation: Underfloor heating works most efficiently in well-insulated homes. If your home loses heat quickly, even the best heating system will struggle to maintain comfort.

  • Flooring type: Underfloor heating works well with materials that conduct heat efficiently, such as stone, tile, or certain types of engineered wood. Carpet and thick underlays can act as insulators and hinder UFH performance.

  • Combination systems: You can install a combination of underfloor heating and radiators. This can be a wise choice in renovations, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of UFH in primary living areas while keeping radiators in occasionally used rooms or spaces like a bathroom for a quick boost of heat.

Summary: Key Takeaways

  • Underfloor heating offers superior comfort and potential energy savings. It provides an even, luxurious warmth while often being more efficient than traditional radiators.

  • Radiators are a cost-effective and familiar option. They’re easy to install and provide quick heat, especially for localised purposes.

  • The best choice depends on your specific needs and priorities. Consider your budget, the layout of your home, its energy efficiency, and your preferences for aesthetics and overall comfort.

  • A combination system might be the ideal solution. Many homeowners find that using underfloor heating for main living areas and radiators in specific rooms offers the best of both worlds.

Ultimately, the decision between underfloor heating and radiators involves weighing the initial investment against long-term benefits. If you prioritise consistent comfort, an uncluttered design, and potential energy savings, underfloor heating may be the ideal choice for your home.

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