If you are using underfloor heating, and particularly if you are installing it yourself, you need to get a good understanding of all the components required for a full system installation. Once the new heating is in place it must be maintained, and should anything go wrong in the future it may need repairs.
The complexity of the system will depend on how much area you are covering, and the type of system you use. An electric mat for a small room such as a bathroom may be relatively simple to install for most DIY enthusiasts, but a whole house system with thermostatic controls for each room will require a much higher level of expertise.
It’s crucial that the system is fitted correctly to achieve the best performance and worth remembering that most problems encountered with underfloor heating in the long term, can be attributed to poor installation.
If you are doing part or all of the installation yourself, make sure you understand exactly what parts and tools are required for the job, and familiarise yourself with the instructions.
All the different parts required to install underfloor heating
If you are installing an underfloor heating system or even just buying one for someone else to install, you should check each component that is supplied with the kit, and ensure you have everything you need when it comes to the fitting.
You can lose valuable time on site if you discover a part is missing and have to wait for a replacement; make sure it is all there well in advance of the job.
While electric underfloor heating is connected directly to the electricity supply, wet underfloor systems draw their heat from another heat source; in the vast majority of cases they use a condenser boiler. The more efficient the boiler, the more efficient and cheaper to run the heating will be; if you are planning a new build, take the time to source the most effective condenser boiler you can.
As an example of what you can expect to receive for a wet underfloor heating kit, a single room kit from online supplier UFH1, which can cover an area of 10-20m2, consists of the following parts:
· 100m barrier pipe
· 2 x 16mm compression fittings
· 2m pipe conduit
· 200 staples to secure pipe
· 12m of edge insulation
· 2 x pipe fittings for connection to a central heating system
No insulation board for the subfloor is supplied, nor control unit for the system, and further fittings may be required for connection to the boiler. Whichever system you use, it is essential to know what extra parts you may need to provide for the job.
A small electric mat system to cover 1.2m2, which can be laid in the tile adhesive under tiles, would include the following parts:
· 100/150/200 watt heating mat
· Programmable room thermostat
· Temperature sensor
· Sensor conduit
Although connection to the mains electricity should be carried out by a qualified electrician, a simple system like this could be installed by most competent DIYers.
Is it possible to update underfloor heating?
Once installed, most wet and electric systems cannot be upgraded to any great extent. By virtue of being laid in the floor, they are difficult to get to and are not designed to be lifted once laid. Most manufacturers offer long guarantees, some up to fifty years, as they claim one of the main benefits of underfloor heating is the lack of maintenance required.
Where underfloor can be updated is by connection to a renewable heat source such as a ground source heat pump or a photovoltaic system. By tapping into renewable energy to supply heat for underfloor heating, you can drastically reduce your heating bills.
Wet systems are particularly suitable for connection to ground source heat pumps, and this combined technology is becoming more popular for new builds in the UK. Heat pumps involve digging a trench in the garden, or somewhere on the property, and laying pipe work to circulate a mixture of water and antifreeze.
The heat from the ground is drawn into the liquid and passed through a heat exchanger into the pump; it can be linked to the underfloor heating system to supply a separate circulation of heated water through the pipes underfloor.
Spares you might need to fix your underfloor heating if things go wrong
Repairing underfloor heating is not always a simple task, and if there are problems with the system under the floor, it may be best to call in professional repairmen to replace the faulty parts. Part of the cabling may fail in an electric system and the floor would need to be lifted for it to be replaced.
If a wet system develops a leak, it can be months before the damage is noticed and could result in whole sections of the flooring being replaced.
Simpler repairs like thermostat replacement or valve replacement on manifold assemblies can be carried out yourself if you feel confident with the system.
It is not viable to keep a stock of all the parts and components of a system, and most can be sourced fairly quickly from manufacturers or merchants.
You can, however, buy cable repair kits for electric systems; and if you intend to maintain the system yourself, kits range from £10-50.
If you are installing an underfloor system and you are going to be responsible for the maintenance of the system, it is essential to become familiar with how your system works and what each component does. Neither wet nor electric systems are designed to be lifted and altered, so your decision on the type of system to install should be for the long term.
Repair kits can be bought as well as replacement components, such as temperature sensors and thermostats, but it is difficult to cater for every scenario.
Most of the problems associated with underfloor heating systems stem from a poor installation or bad practice on site; make sure that the system is installed absolutely professionally and correctly to reduce the chance of faults in the future.