Step up the heat

A room showing underfloor heating system.
A room showing underfloor heating system.

Get those jobs done with a little help from DIY guru Julia Gray. This week: how to install underfloor heating system at home.

The last thing you want to do on a cold morning is get out of bed. But imagine if you could step out onto a warm carpet... Sounds blissful doesn’t it? Well, many people dream of having underfloor heating, according to a new campaign, Ask for Underfloor (www.askforunderfloor.org.uk). In a survey, a third of people said they’d like underfloor heating in their new home when they next move. Desirable as it may be, underfloor heating can seem like an expensive and disruptive home improvement, but it’s often more affordable and easier to fit than you might think.

Undated Handout Photo of Polypipe Solid Floor underfloor heating. See PA Feature HOMES Homes Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/www.AskForUnderfloor.org.uk. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature HOMES Homes Column.

Undated Handout Photo of Polypipe Solid Floor underfloor heating. See PA Feature HOMES Homes Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/www.AskForUnderfloor.org.uk. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature HOMES Homes Column.

There are two types of underfloor heating, electric and wet or hydronic, which circulate warm water between pipes under the floor and the boiler. If, like me, you thought the pipes have to be laid in a new concrete floor, you’d be wrong. With some wet underfloor heating systems, the plumber can lift up the existing floorcovering, fit the heating panels, lay plywood on top and then replace the floorcovering (assuming it’s not damaged). Most types of floorcovering are suitable for underfloor heating, including carpet, tiles, vinyl, laminate and wood, although it should be insulated underneath to prevent excessive heat loss.

While it’s perfectly possible to have underfloor heating in some rooms and radiators in others, the former is more energy efficient. It works at a lower temperature to radiators and yet delivers the same level of comfort, saving you money because the boiler or other heat source doesn’t have to work as hard and so uses less energy.

A radiator heats the air immediately above it, with the heat rising to the ceiling and then falling in a circular motion as it cools, whereas an underfloor system heats the entire floor from the floor up, providing a more even heat throughout the room. This reduces the constant air circulation caused by radiators, which creates draughts and distributes dust.

If your home has a ground, air or water source heat pump, or you’re considering installing one, this is the perfect partner for underfloor heating. Heat pumps work at their most efficient at low-water-output temperatures and so having a low-temperature heat emitter, such as underfloor heating, is ideal. Both heat pumps and boilers can heat water to the lower temperature required for underfloor heating, but heat pumps do it more efficiently than boilers.

As wet underfloor heating systems are connected to your home’s boiler or heat pump, they can be cheaper to run than electric versions. They also come with room (or zone) controls, so you can have some rooms (or zones, such as the ground floor) hotter than others, again potentially saving you money.

Another advantage of underfloor heating is that it’s space saving — some rooms, especially in small homes, are short of wall space for radiators, but this clearly isn’t a problem if the heating’s under the floor. What’s more, underfloor heating is increasingly popular in children’s bedrooms, as a safer alternative to radiators.

It is, of course, important to get your underfloor heating from a reputable manufacturer that offers a guarantee — some manufacturers guarantee their heating pipes for up to 50 years — and to use a plumber or heating engineer with experience of fitting systems like yours. While prices vary from system to system and home to home, wet underfloor heating for a three-bedroom house costs around £2,100 to £2,600, according to Ask for Underfloor. Visit www.askforunderfloor.org.uk for more information on prices, and wet underfloor heating in general.

If you’re looking for a gift for a domestic goddess this Mothering Sunday, look no further than the Russell Hobbs Illumina 3-in-1 Hand Blender (£49.99, uk.russellhobbs.com). Much more than a standard hand blender, it comes with a blending leg with titanium-coated stainless-steel blades, a metal whisk attachment and a metal blade for chopping. You also get two pots — a 750ml chopping bowl that’s ideal for blitzing herbs, and a 1 litre beaker that’s ideal for whipping cream and making smoothies. Both pots have a rubber mat that stops them slipping on the worktop, and the mats cleverly double as lids for the pots, so you can easily store what you’ve made.

The ergonomically designed hand blender is fast, powerful (700W), sturdy and attractive, with a black and brushed stainless-steel finish, but the really innovative thing is the light ring that changes colour when you change speed. As soon as you learn which colour is for which task (there’s a sticker to show you), it’s easy to stay in control. Switching speeds and pressing the power button can easily be done with one hand, so it’s pretty much foolproof.

To repair painted woodwork that’s chipped, remove any flaking paint and sand smooth. Fill each repair with wood filler and sand smooth when that’s set, before wiping clean and repainting. Keep painting over each repair until you almost can’t see the filler, then repaint the whole piece of wood once or twice to avoid a patchy finish.