Under-floor heating: the warm truth

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It is no secret that our energy use has to shrink by 2020, due to government concerns and strict construction issues now being enforced.

The rising cost of supply, combined with global warming, makes energy-efficient technologies essential today. Floor heating – which uses 30% less energy than warm water heating and over 10% less than ceiling radiation plates – is well placed to reduce energy consumption, cutting carbon emissions and slashing energy bills.

Despite the clear advantages of floor heating, building owners have traditionally been resistant to it. This is the result of myths that have been spread about the technology and a lack of knowledge about what modern floor heating systems are capable of in both commercial properties and residential housing.

Perhaps the largest myth about floor heating is that it simply cannot work for large scale structures. This is fortunately not the case. For example, so enamoured was one major German supermarket chain, a familiar face on the UK high street for its superb value. They installed under floor heating at 15 of its main distribution warehouses – covering 500,000m², which is equal to five Wembley Stadiums.

The heating that rises from the substrate is the source of many myths about floor heating. First amongst them is the belief that it creates flooring that is uncomfortably hot. This is untrue. As heat rises from the entire floor, it need only be a couple of degrees hotter than the desired air temperature.

It has also been said that providing heating from the substrate affects its strength. Some systems, which are laid under the substrate in fact, have no negative effect on its load bearing properties. Some commentators have even argued that as floor heating provides a stable temperature, it combats thermal shrinking and expanding and as such protects concrete substrates. Tough piping ensures the longevity of underfloor heating.

Laid under the substrate, floor heating does not restrict ability to insert fittings into the floor. This is because the drilling depth for fixings is limited by the depth of the substrate. Ceiling fittings however may prove an inconvenience if the purpose of a commercial structure changes.

Another major misconception about under-floor heating is that it proves difficult to control. Again, this is not the case. Fed from a single feed, the hard wearing piping that runs under the substrate can be arranged to ensure that buildings are heated uniformly and thoroughly. Operated by digital controls and automatic thermostats in the same way as home systems, it ensures comfort for users.

It can also be localised. Some under-floor heating allows heating pipes to be laid in greater or lesser concentrations. This allows individual comfort zones to be implemented, such as under drafty windows or doors.

Lately, sustainability has rightfully become a key concern to the construction industry, due to new construction laws.

Specifiers have a duty to implement environmentally beneficial technology wherever possible, whether it is energy saving light bulbs or recycled ply-boarding. Combining the best in performance with immense carbon – and cost – reduction, under-floor heating systems are the prime choice for large scale heating.

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