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Underfloor Heating and Sustainable Flooring

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 20 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Underfloor Heating Sustainable Flooring

Underfloor heating has gained in popularity over the last few years and it's not hard to see why. It gives even heat coverage, the temperatures are lower than conventional radiators and there are no radiators to work around when decorating or redesigning the interior.

Sustainability And Underfloor Heating

But why should underfloor heating be of interest to people who are looking at sustainable flooring? The current resurgence of interest in underfloor heating, which to be honest has been around since the Roman era, is largely linked to rising levels of interest in eco-friendly building and renovation. So it's likely that someone looking at sustainable flooring may well be interested in underfloor heating as well.

More Expensive Installation

Underfloor heating is more expensive to install than a conventional radiator system, for a number of reasons. Firstly there's basic economics; although underfloor heating is gaining in popularity it won’t be until it is a truly mainstream option that prices will come down due to the economies of scale.

The second factor is that there's more hardware involved. As well as the hot water tubes having to snake backwards and forwards across the whole of each room to avoid cold spots, the pipes all have to go back to a central manifold near the boiler if individual room thermostats are to be used (something that does make sense).

Thirdly, all of that involves a lot more building work. If you are considering underfloor heating as part of a renovation then it may require excavation then relaying of floors, or raising the floor levels and having to modify skirting boards, doorways and perhaps even window openings. You can see why underfloor heating is much more popular in new builds than renovations.

Underfloor Heating Benefits

But for someone renovating or building an eco-sensitive home the extra cost may well be worth it and the lower heat requirements (40-50 degrees as opposed to 85-95 for conventional radiators) should lead to lower costs for running the boiler.

There are other benefits too; because the heat is spread evenly there are fewer air currents and therefore fewer airborne particles roaming the rooms, something that which may be of benefit to asthmatics, hay fever sufferers or people with certain allergies. In addition the air is not dried out so much so air humidity remains more constant.

Underfloor Heating To Sustainability

All this means that underfloor heating lends itself well to many types of flooring sourced sustainably, although you may need to do your research to check whether or not your chosen flooring is compatible. Bamboo flooring, for example, can be used with underfloor heating, but not all types, so you will need to check with the supplier.

Generally speaking stone, cork or ceramic tiles, marble, rubber and most natural carpets should work well with underfloor heating. Most vinyl and lino floorings cannot be used though.

Wood is a tricky one, it can often be fine but it does depend on the type of wood, the thickness and width of the boards, and the intermediate layers laid between the pipes and the heating coils. Pine, for example, can be used but the width of the boards needs to be right otherwise they will warp and curl. But if you are reusing wooden flooring and can't be sure exactly what wood it is then it would be best to get advice from underfloor heating experts.

Laminates

Of course many laminated flooring will work perfectly with underfloor heating but there are very few of those that could be construed as sustainable flooring. Even if the materials used are sustainable, the chances are that the manufacturing process isn't particularly eco-friendly.

One final point to be aware of is to check the glue that you are using if the flooring is to be stuck down. In some case the material may be fine but if the wrong glue is used, the heat may weaken it and the flooring will start lifting away.

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