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What type of underfloor heating should I choose?

Last updated on 24 November 2020

There are two main types of underfloor heating: the hydraulic (water) system and the electrical system.

More efficient and environmentally friendly, the hydraulic system is the one currently recommended. It is also the one usually installed in new builds.

Hydraulic underfloor heating

  • Of the two systems, it is the most efficient, the most eco-friendly and the most economical to use.
  • On the other hand, it is more complex to install and therefore a little more expensive than electric underfloor heating.
  • On average, you should expect to spend € 70 to € 100 per m2.

In practice

Connected to the central heating system (boiler, heat pump, etc.), water underfloor heating consists of a network of pipes embedded in the floor (cast in the screed or laid on the concrete slab) in which hot water circulates in a closed circuit.

The heat from the pipes spreads evenly throughout the room from the floor.

For who?

Water underfloor heating is ideal for new-build projects. In renovation, it is sometimes harder to install because it means raising the floor by about 10 to 15 cm.

Electric underfloor heating

  • Much less common, the electrical system has the advantage of being simpler and cheaper to install: costing from € 40 to € 60 per m2.
  • If you're a handyman, you can do the installation yourself, which further halves the price.
  • Sometimes this system is preferred for specific renovation projects because it is much thinner than a hydraulic system (3 to 13 mm).

In practice

The electrical system does not require a boiler: it simply needs to be connected to the power grid. It consists of a lattice of electrical cables that simply unroll on the screed or concrete slab under the floor covering, like a carpet.

Cables work like resistors: they heat and transmit their heat by radiation to the different rooms in the house.

For who?

Electric underfloor heating uses much more energy than its hydraulic cousin, and is therefore much less eco-friendly and less economical to use. And since we mostly heat during the day, we can't rely on night-time electricity rates to reduce costs.

This is why electric underfloor heating is not often recommended, and not favoured by the increasingly strict regulations in Belgium.

The electric underfloor heating system is not recommended, so the rest of the explanation mainly concerns the hydraulic system.

Installation constraints

The main obstacle to the installation of a floor heating system is that the pipes must be laid under the floor covering. In the case of a renovation, the floor must therefore be raised by 10 to 15 cm (and therefore, in an old building, demolished).

Moreover, to have a good output, underfloor heating must be paired with a floor finish with good conduction abilities: tile, stone, terracotta, etc.

Floors and parquet, laminate, carpet, PVC or linoleum can be used, but only under certain conditions. Check on the packaging or with the seller that they are compatible with your underfloor heating system..

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