Standard Radiators Vs Underfloor Heating

A necessity for the home, over 90% of UK homes have a central heating system, and a popular choice of central heating is the standard radiator. When choosing your home’s central heating system, you may not think twice about using the standard radiator. Introduced in the 1930s, the domestic radiator has barely changed since then. However, in more recent years, underfloor heating has become a more popular choice with many new homes installing this new heating system as standard. Once seen as a luxurious addition to the household, underfloor heating is becoming ever more popular with a steady growth of 3% compared to previous years. But which heating system is more beneficial? This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of standard radiators and underfloor heating.


How do both systems function?

One of the most common forms of central heating, the radiator is useless without the boiler. The boiler heats water by gas, electric or both which is then transferred to each radiator, thus heating the space it is placed in. This water travels fluidly throughout pipework running through your home. Similar to the standard radiator system, underfloor heating can also be powered by the boiler and, unlike popular belief, can be used with most types of boilers. There are two types of underfloor heating systems: wet and electric. The former is suitable for homes where floor height is no issue as underfloor heating can increase the overall floor height by over 15cm. Using a system comprised of mats and connections, the floor is then heated using water from the boiler. The latter, the electric system, is best suited to a space with less floor height. An ultra-thin heating wire is installed in the sub-floor which heats the floor’s surface to the desired temperature. Unlike radiators or wet underfloor heating systems, this system type does not need a boiler to function as it can be powered by the electrical mains.


What are the disadvantages of radiators and underfloor heating?


  • Uneven heat and draughts: Radiator systems create uneven heat distribution as, once heat is distributed, it becomes cool, creating cold spots and draughts.
  • Exposed heat: Many radiators, particularly older designs, become incredibly hot which can be dangerous as it is exposed. Whilst new radiators do not become hot, thanks to developed technology, older radiators can be extremely unsafe, particularly for small children.
  • Less efficient: As radiators emit uneven heat, its heat needs to be increased in order to heat spaces which are far away from the radiator itself. This can then cause overheating which wastes energy and money. Overheating can increase energy costs by a whopping 8%.

Underfloor Heating

  • Initial cost can be expensive: The installation of underfloor heating can be quite steep which could put many people off from this choice. This could be because of the longer installation process which requires more intricate parts than the standard radiator system.
  • Unknown territory: As underfloor heating is so new, this can be intimidating to many which could deter people from choosing this heating system. Underfloor heating could take a while to get used to which some people might be put off by.
  • Electric systems can be pricey: The electric underfloor system can be more expensive to run due to heightened electricity costs compared to energy sources such as gas.


What are the advantages of radiators and underfloor heating?


  • Familiar and easy-to-use: The radiator is the most familiar form of heating system and can be easily used because of its prolonged popularity.
  • Designer radiators can add to the aesthetic: A popular choice these days, designer radiators can be a great addition to a room’s overall style, which many people take into account, with many of these designer products more readily available to the wider public.
  • Higher heat outputs: Even though radiator systems can be less efficient compared to underfloor heating systems, many new radiators can create higher heat outputs meaning that a space can be more easily heated compared to the use of older models. Thanks to the use of more appropriate materials such as steel, radiators can heat a space for a longer period of time even once it’s turned off, meaning more efficiency with less energy costs.


Underfloor Heating Systems

  • Consistent and even heat: Unlike the radiator system, underfloor systems heat up your floor, giving an even and consistent heat output. As the underfloor heating heats, this gently warms the room, creating a comfortable and evenly-heated environment.
  • High energy efficiency: Due to its large covered surface area, underfloor heating heats up the entire floor meaning that it can be kept to a low and consistent heat output, therefore saving you energy usage and costs. When fitted with a heat-pump, underfloor heating can be approximately 40% more efficient than radiators due to such a low water temperature. Overall, underfloor heating can use between 15-40% less energy than radiators.
  • It’s versatile and adaptable: Underfloor heating can be installed in new and old homes thanks to the different systems on offer.
  • Silent and discreet operation: Underfloor heating operates silently and is invisible to the eye, freeing up your wall space.


So, whilst both heating systems have their advantages and disadvantages, there’s no denying that underfloor heating is becoming increasingly popular. Whilst underfloor heating might not overtake radiators any time soon, it is becoming more of a practical and readily available option for many households.

This article has discussed the advantages and disadvantages of two domestic heating systems: the standard radiator and underfloor heating. Although radiators are overall less efficient to run, they are not as expensive as installing an underfloor heating system. They are also a comfortable and obvious choice thanks to its long-standing popularity of heating systems since the 1930s. Yet, underfloor heating is becoming much more popular thanks to its overall high efficiency rates and even temperature distribution, making it a more desirable and tempting option if you can afford the high installation costs.

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