The Hills Fuel Poverty Report, commissioned by the government, estimates that there will be 4.1 million households living in fuel poverty in the UK by the end of 2011.
That staggering figure is due to the rise in energy prices over recent years, and any measures people take to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, help to reduce the cost of heating.
A house with good insulation and double glazing uses much less energy to heat, and retains that heat much better. Underfloor heating in those circumstances will further reduce the demand for energy and result in cheaper running costs; something desperately needed by many people.
How to reduce your heating bills with underfloor heating
Whether you have an electric or a wet underfloor system there are several things you can do in practice to reduce the price of your bills. If you are selecting a system to install there are things to look for, which will help energy efficiency once the heating is installed.
Choose a system that allows you to have a thermostat in each room or each zone that the heating is installed. The benefit of having the ability to heat different rooms to different temperatures is that you do not heat areas unnecessarily, and can control the heating much better to suit your lifestyle.
Remember that underfloor heating has a longer heat up period than some other types of heating, possibly between 1-2 hours, so time the heating to come on earlier so the room is up to temperature by the time you intend to use it. And don’t forget there is also a slower cool down period and the residual heat remains longer, so you can turn the heating off earlier.
The installation costs
In a new build, underfloor heating costs roughly the same as a central heating installation, as the systems can be fitted on site at first fix. Costs can vary depending on the type of installation, but as a guide an electric system will cost around £15 per square metre to install the system, and £180 per zone for the electrical connection and testing.
A water based system will be priced at around £18 per square metre for the install, and £240 per zone for both the electrical and plumbing work.
A renovation project can vary dramatically between wet and electric underfloor heating, with dry systems being much cheaper to retro-fit than wet systems.
Installing water pipes into an existing floor will often involve excavating the surface to lay the pipes; an expensive process and one which is rarely cost-effective.
An electric system is much more suited to retro-fitting as the cable or matting can be fitted under an existing floor finish or even over the surface, quickly and easily. The average profile of a dry system is 3mm, which means it can usually be installed without any alteration to doors and skirting boards.
The running costs
If you are evaluating your property and are looking for long term energy saving, and therefore money saving, the running costs have to be considered.
A wet system will generally outperform a dry system in this comparison, as it typically uses heat from a gas boiler rather than directly from the electricity supply.
Prices fluctuate, but gas can be between two to three times cheaper than electricity per KWh, so in the long term there should be a significant saving.
Both systems would benefit from the use of renewable energy sources to power them, and the running costs can be heavily reduced by producing your own form of heating. Ground source heat pumps are particularly suitable for use with wet underfloor heating.
Water based underfloor systems run on lower temperatures than central heating systems so the heat pumps are more readily able to heat the system; and as the ground temperature remains constant throughout the year, they provide a viable heat source even in winter. The energy saving potential of such a system could reduce bills by 40% or more.
How much money can be saved?
The cost of installing a system into an existing property could run into several thousand pounds, and the ‘payback’ period could be many years. If an installation cost £5000, for example, and overall saved £100 on the heating per year, it would take 50 years to pay for the cost of installation before any ‘profit’ was made via savings on energy bills.
However, if it is being installed on a new build, or on a renovation project which requires a new heating system, the savings on bills are from the outset.
Instances where underfloor heating would not save you money.
Although it is more energy efficient, underfloor heating is not always the right heating system for every property. The maximum heat that underfloor heating is allowed to supply by regulations is 100 watts per square metre.
In a property with high ceilings, lack of insulation or draughts, underfloor systems may not be able to heat the rooms enough to maintain a comfortable level; particularly in winter when the temperature outside drops.
If underfloor heating has been wrongly specified or poorly installed, people end up using other heating methods as well and receiving two bills.
If the underfloor heating cannot give adequate heat and there is a need to use radiators or other heating, you should consider adding insulation to your home and look at other ways to retain the heat.
Underfloor heating has the potential to save energy and money in most circumstances. The installation costs are not prohibitive in comparison with other types of heating, and both wet and electric systems are cheaper to run than central heating systems.
Well insulated houses will allow underfloor heating to perform at its optimum, and linking the system to a renewable energy source, can provide significant savings on energy bills.
At a time when many are facing difficulty heating their homes, products and systems which save energy are never in greater demand, as people strive to reduce those energy bills.