Underfloor heating (UFH) is not a new or in any way a modern concept. It may sound like the sort of thing ‘the Joneses up the road’ have just had installed, but it’s been with us much much longer.
There is evidence to show that it has been around since the Neolithic period and was achieved through stone covered trenches that were beneath the floors. A fire would then encourage the hot smoke to flow along the trenches and heat the rooms above.
One of the most well known incarnations, and also efficient and trustworthy was the Roman Hypocaust. Hypocausts heated public baths and the houses of well off Romans. Raising the floor from underneath would be pillars (pilae stacks) which then give space under the floor. A fire is then lit and the smoke travels under the floor (heating the surface above it) and then leaves through the terracotta chimney (made from terracotta tubes, tubulae?) while ingeniously heating the terracotta and warming the tepidarium.
It is therefore not surprising, given its’ heritage, that underfloor heating is still considered desirable by many.
So how does it work today?
Well, you won’t be surprised to hear that people aren’t lighting fires on the outside of their house! Instead there are 2 main ways of achieving this. Wet Systems and Dry Systems.
With a Wet System (or hydronic system), pipes (often plastic tubing) are embedded in the floor and a controlled flow of warm water is pumped through, in turn the heat from the pipes radiates and warms the floor. UFH systems do not need to be at high or boiling temperature levels. This is Dublin Insulation because of the surface area being heated – the heat is released to a large area (unlike small wall radiators for example) and heats the floor evenly. For comparison, a radiator normally heats the water to around 80C, whereas UFH heats to between 45-65C.
With a Dry System, while the principle remains the same, there is no water involved. An electric heating element is used instead as the heat source.
There are some reported health benefits from under floor heating. Those who suffer from respiratory issues should breathe easier due to transmission of heat via radiation – little circulation is created by the movement of warm air and therefore does not circulate allergens around the room. A radiator heats via convection and will create a dust circulation which may affect some people.
Similarly those who suffer from circulatory problems may also enjoy UFH due to the radiating heat working at more even and lower humidity levels.
So while underfloor heating is not something that is new, it is something that can offer you benefit in many ways, while also helping the environment. It also keeps you up to date with the Joneses.