Advantages of electric underfloor heating vs warm water underfloor heating

11 Apr 2016

After being informed of the many benefits of underfloor heating, your next dilemma however is which system to go for; warm water underfloor heating or electric underfloor heating? This article highlights the advantages of electric underfloor heating over warm water underfloor heating. 

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(1) Ease of installation

New Builds:

Both electric and warm water underfloor heating are very cheap and simple to install on new concrete floors.
Warm water underfloor heating however is more time consuming on suspended wooden floors as:

  • Each joist has to be notched to allow the piping to pass
  • Expensive diffusion plates must be used to transfer the heat across the wooden floor
  • It is more difficult to work off a floor that isn’t solid (ie walking on joists).
Electric underfloor heating is simply laid under the floor covering so is just as easy to install on top of a wooden suspended floor as installing on top of a concrete floor.


Warm water underfloor heating is often difficult to install in refurbishments as the concrete floors are often already down so you have to build a false floor to accommodate the piping. Even installing under wooden suspended floors is time consuming (see above).

Electric underfloor heating is incredibly easy as it simply lays under the new floor covering.

(2) Warm up time

Concrete floors:

In a concrete floor the warm water underfloor heating pipes are buried in 75-90mm of screed. Although the screed is a relatively good conductor of heat it does take a while for the warm water underfloor heating pipes to heat the screed before the room can be heated.

In the case of an electric underfloor heating mat, a thin layer of insulation is placed on top of the concrete floor to reflect the heat upwards. As the heat only has to travel through the floor covering the warm up time is very fast.

Wooden suspended floors:

Wood is not a great conductor of heat and as the warm water underfloor heating pipes have to be installed under the wooden floors it limits the choice of floor covering. It is fine if the floor covering is tiles or the wooden floor boards are to be the final covering. It is not however suitable for thick carpets or floating laminate / engineered wooden floors.

As electric underfloor heating is installed onto the wooden floor boards you have much more freedom when choosing your final floor covering.

Installing Electric Underfloor Heating On Suspended Floor Installing Warm Water Underfloor Heating Under Suspended Floor

(3) Delivery Time

The lead time is generally much shorter for electric underfloor heating as the mats are standard off the shelf items.

(4) Cost of Installation

 The material cost of electric and warm water underfloor heating are often very similar. The installation time and therefore cost of installing is where they vary.

The most cost effective place to install warm water underfloor heating is within a new concrete floor. All other scenarios tend to be more expensive than electric underfloor heating. With electric underfloor heating all installation scenarios are very fast and easy. The easiest and fastest floor coverings to install under are floating wooden floors or carpets. Tiles are a little more time consuming and the lengthiest are Amtico or Karndean floors as the mats have to be covered by a self levelling compound.

(5)  No boiler

The cost of installing a new boiler can easily be £2000 or more. By going all electric you can save all that money.

In a new build there is no need to run a gas pipe to your property from the street gas mains saving you money.

The ongoing maintenance and repair of boilers can cost hundreds of pounds every year.

Increased safety by reducing gas appliances in the property.

(6) Cupboard space

Warm water underfloor heating systems require a manifold on each floor, for large properties there may even be multiple manifolds on each floor. This obviously takes up valuable space which you could put to better use. There are no manifolds required for electric underfloor heating systems.

(7) Floor height when retrofitting

When retrofitting warm water underfloor heating on top of an existing concrete floor, you have to build a false wooden floor to accommodate the piping. By raising the floor height you have a whole range of problems such as door height, sideboards, kitchen units, electric sockets etc. As electric underfloor heating is so thin it doesn’t effect the floor height avoiding all these problems.

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