How Does Electric Underfloor Heating Work: Describe in 5 Easy Steps

Have you ever stepped onto a cold floor on a chilly winter morning? Quite an unpleasant start to the day, isn’t it? Now, imagine if your floor could greet your feet with a warm and cozy touch instead. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. It’s called electric underfloor heating, and it’s transforming homes across the globe.

Did you know that as per a recent survey, about 5 million households in the UK alone have switched to underfloor heating systems? And the numbers are only growing. The urgency to find energy-efficient and comfortable heating solutions is real, and electric underfloor heating is stepping up as a game-changer.

In this blog post, we’re going to demystify this innovative technology for you. We’ll walk you through the ins and outs of how electric underfloor heating works in just five easy steps. So, buckle up and get ready to step into a world of warmth and comfort!

What is Electric Underfloor Heating?

Electric underfloor heating, often referred to as a radiant heating system, is a modern method of heating your home from the ground up. It involves installing a series of electric wires or heating mats beneath your floor surface, which heat up when electricity passes through them. This heat then radiates upwards, warming your room evenly and comfortably. It’s like having a giant, invisible radiator hidden under your floor!

Unlike traditional radiators that heat the air around them, electric underfloor heating warms the entire floor surface, resulting in a more consistent and comfortable temperature throughout the room. It’s a different approach compared to other types of underfloor heating, such as water-based systems, which circulate hot water through pipes under the floor. While both systems aim to provide radiant heat, electric underfloor heating is often easier to install, especially in retrofit projects.

There are primarily two types of electric underfloor heating systems:

  1. Electric Cable Systems: These involve loose cables that can be arranged flexibly to cover the floor area. They’re ideal for irregularly shaped rooms.
  2. Electric Matting Systems: These consist of cables attached to a mesh or mat, which can be rolled out to cover larger, regularly shaped areas quickly and easily.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the history of electric underfloor heating:

  • 5000 BC: The first evidence of underfloor heating is found in Korea. Ondol, a system of heating floors with hot air or water, is developed.
  • 1950s: Underfloor heating is introduced to the United States and Europe. Early systems use hot water pipes, which are expensive and difficult to install.
  • 1970s: Electric underfloor heating systems are developed. These systems are more affordable and easier to install than hot water systems, and they quickly become popular.
  • 1990s: Improvements in technology lead to more efficient and reliable electric underfloor heating systems.
  • 2000s to Present: Electric underfloor heating has become increasingly popular due to its energy efficiency, comfort, and ease of installation. It is now a common choice for heating homes and businesses around the world.

Components of Electric Underfloor Heating

An electric underfloor heating system is more than just wires under your floor. It’s a combination of several components working together to provide you with a warm and cozy living space. Let’s take a closer look at these components:

a. Heating Cables/Mat: These are the heart of the system. Whether it’s individual cables or a mat, these elements heat up when electricity is passed through them, warming your floor and, in turn, your room.

b. Thermostat: This is the brain of the system. It controls when the heating system turns on and off, based on the temperature settings you choose. Some thermostats are programmable, allowing you to set different temperatures for different times of the day.

c. Floor Sensor: This component works hand-in-hand with the thermostat. It’s a sensor that’s installed within the floor to accurately measure the floor temperature. This information is sent to the thermostat to help regulate the heating.

d. Manifold: While this component is more common in water-based underfloor heating systems, some complex electric underfloor heating systems may also have a manifold. It’s a hub that connects different heating circuits, allowing for better control and distribution of heat.

5 Easy Steps: How Does Electric Underfloor Heating Work?

Step 1: Preparation of the Area

Before you start laying the heating cables or mat, the area needs to be prepared. This involves:

  • Cleaning the subfloor: It’s crucial to remove any debris, dust, or sharp objects that could potentially damage the heating cables.
  • Installing insulation: An insulation layer is installed to ensure that the heat from the cables rises upwards rather than being lost into the subfloor.
  • Performing safety checks: Check for any potential hazards like dampness or structural issues that need to be addressed before installation.

Step 2: Laying of Heating Cables/Mat

Next, the heating cables or mat are laid out on the floor. This process needs to be done carefully to ensure even heat distribution. The cables or mat should be spaced evenly and should not overlap. It’s also important to consider the placement of furniture and fixtures, as you should avoid placing heating cables under permanent fixtures where heat could build up.

Step 3: Installation of the Sensor and Thermostat

The floor sensor is installed within the floor, close to the heating cables but not touching them. It’s usually placed inside a conduit for protection. The thermostat is installed on the wall, at a height that’s convenient for you to access. It should be away from other heat sources like radiators or direct sunlight to ensure accurate temperature readings.

Step 4: Testing the System

Once everything is installed, it’s time to test the system. This involves turning on the system and checking if the floor heats up evenly. Here are some possible results and their meanings:

  • The floor heats up evenly: This means the system is working correctly.
  • Certain areas are not heating up: This could indicate a problem with the heating cables in that area.
  • The system doesn’t turn on: This could be due to a problem with the thermostat or the electrical connections.

Step 5: Final Flooring Installation

Finally, the floor covering is installed over the heating system. Here’s a comparison of different floor types suitable for electric underfloor heating:

Floor TypeSuitability for Underfloor Heating
Tile and StoneExcellent – They conduct heat well and retain heat for longer
Laminate and WoodGood – They’re suitable but heat output is lower compared to tile and stone
CarpetFair – They can be used but the carpet and underlay need to be of a type suitable for underfloor heating

The installation process will depend on the type of flooring. After installation, it’s recommended to wait for a few days before turning on the system, to allow any adhesives or grouts to dry properly.

Benefits of Electric Underfloor Heating


Electric underfloor heating systems are incredibly efficient. They distribute heat evenly across the room, eliminating cold spots and reducing the need for high temperatures. This can lead to energy savings. In fact, according to the Energy Saving Trust, underfloor heating can be up to 25% more efficient than traditional radiators when paired with a modern condensing boiler, and up to 40% more efficient when running with a heat pump.


There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a warm floor under your feet on a cold day. Electric underfloor heating provides a unique level of comfort. It heats the room from the ground up and maintains a consistent temperature, creating a cozy and comfortable environment.

Space Saving

With electric underfloor heating, you can say goodbye to bulky radiators. The heating system is hidden beneath the floor, freeing up wall space and giving you more freedom to design your room. This can be particularly beneficial in smaller rooms where space is at a premium.

Easy to Install

Electric underfloor heating systems are generally easier to install compared to water-based systems, especially in existing buildings. They don’t require any pipework, just an electricity supply. This makes them a popular choice for retrofit projects. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global underfloor heating market size was valued at USD 3.35 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.0% from 2020 to 2027, indicating the growing preference for these systems.

Costs and Considerations for Electric Underfloor Heating

Installation Cost

The cost of installing electric underfloor heating can vary depending on the size of the room, the type of system (cable or mat), and whether it’s a new build or a retrofit. Here’s a rough guide to average prices:

Room SizeAverage Cost
Small (up to 10m²)£200 – £300
Medium (10m² – 20m²)£300 – £600
Large (over 20m²)£600 – £1200

Please note these prices are for the heating system only and do not include the cost of floor covering or professional installation.

Operating Cost

The operating cost of underfloor heating depends on various factors such as the insulation of your home, the desired room temperature, and the cost of electricity. However, due to its efficiency, underfloor heating can often be cheaper to run than traditional radiators. For example, a well-insulated room with underfloor heating might require a floor temperature of just 24-26°C to maintain a room temperature of 20°C, whereas a radiator would need to run at 65-75°C.

Lifespan and Maintenance

Electric underfloor heating systems are designed to last a long time, often upwards of 25 years, and require little to no maintenance. They come with lengthy warranties for peace of mind.

Considerations for Different Types of Homes and Climates

Underfloor heating can be a great choice for all types of homes, from new builds to renovations. However, it’s particularly beneficial in homes with high ceilings where heat from radiators can rise and be wasted.

In terms of climate, underfloor heating provides a comfortable heat in colder climates. In warmer climates, it can still be beneficial in cooler months or for rooms with cold tile floors, such as bathrooms.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up our journey into the world of electric underfloor heating, it’s clear that this technology offers a unique blend of comfort, efficiency, and practicality. From the even, radiant heat it provides, to the space-saving design and ease of installation, electric underfloor heating truly has the potential to transform your home living experience.

We’ve walked through the components of the system, the installation process, and the numerous benefits it offers. We’ve also considered the costs involved and the factors that can influence these costs. But beyond the numbers and technical details, there’s a bigger picture to consider.

Electric underfloor heating is more than just a heating solution. It’s a step towards a more sustainable and energy-efficient lifestyle. It’s about making our homes not just warmer, but also smarter and more responsive to our needs. It’s about rethinking traditional approaches and embracing innovation for a better living experience.

So, as you ponder the prospect of stepping onto a warm, cozy floor every winter morning, remember that with electric underfloor heating, you’re not just choosing a product. You’re choosing a new way of living. A way that’s warm, comfortable, and wonderfully modern. Now, isn’t that a thought worth cozying up to?

Electric Underfloor Heating (FAQs)

Is it worth getting electric underfloor heating?

Absolutely, electric underfloor heating is a worthwhile investment. It offers a comfortable, even heat distribution and can be more energy-efficient than traditional heating systems, potentially reducing your energy bills.

Can you heat a whole house with electric underfloor heating?

Yes, electric underfloor heating can be used as a primary heat source for an entire house. It’s especially effective in well-insulated homes where the heat is retained effectively.

What is the disadvantage of underfloor heating?

One potential drawback of underfloor heating is the initial installation cost, which can be higher than traditional heating systems. Also, it may take longer to heat up compared to conventional radiators.

Is underfloor heating connected to a boiler?

Not always. While some underfloor heating systems are water-based and connected to a boiler, electric underfloor heating systems work independently and do not require a boiler.

Are there any specific safety precautions to consider with electric underfloor heating?

Yes, it’s crucial to ensure the system is installed by a qualified professional to avoid any electrical safety issues. Also, the system should be tested regularly to ensure it’s functioning correctly.

Can electric underfloor heating be installed in all types of flooring?

Electric underfloor heating is versatile and can be installed under most types of flooring, including tile, stone, wood, and carpet, although the heat output might vary.

What is the average cost of installing electric underfloor heating?

The cost can vary depending on the size of the area and the type of system, but on average, you might expect to pay between $10 to $20 per square foot for both the system and installation.

How long does electric underfloor heating take to heat a room?

It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours for the system to fully heat a room, depending on the room’s size, insulation, and the specific system installed.

What are the common installation challenges with electric underfloor heating?

Some challenges might include ensuring the floor is properly prepared and leveled, installing the system without damaging the heating wires, and integrating the system with your existing electrical setup.

Can electric underfloor heating be controlled remotely through a smart home system?

Yes, many modern electric underfloor heating systems can be integrated with smart home systems, allowing you to control and monitor your heating remotely for added convenience and energy efficiency.

Can electric underfloor heating be installed in older homes without causing damage?

Yes, electric underfloor heating can be installed in older homes. However, it’s essential to work with a professional to ensure the installation doesn’t damage the existing structure or electrical system.

Does the installation of an electric underfloor heating system require a layer of screed?

Typically, yes. A layer of screed is often applied over the electric heating system before the final floor covering is laid. This helps to protect the wiring and ensures even heat distribution across the floor.

Is it necessary to alter the existing wiring in a house to install an electric underfloor heating system?

In most cases, some alterations to the existing wiring will be necessary to accommodate the electric underfloor heating system. It’s crucial to have this work carried out by a qualified electrician to ensure safety and compliance with electrical regulations.

Leave a Comment