Creating healthier homes for the future with underfloor heating


Joanna Crown at WMS explains why radiant heating is the key to creating and redeveloping healthier homes for the future, which incorporate affordable warmth as standard

The decarbonisation of UK homes is becoming increasingly important and newly introduced regulations are already changing how we heat new and existing properties.

The low water temperature update to the Building Regulations and Part L, introduced last summer, requires every newly built home to prove a 31% reduction in CO2, compared to previous standards. While any new or replacement heating systems being installed should be designed to accept low-carbon heating in the future and demonstrate a maximum flow temperature of 55°C.

Half of the respondents who took part in the recent Housing Management & Maintenance  ‘Decarbonisation of Social Housing’ study believe the UK’s average social housing stock requires improvement in energy performance – with a further 30% in dire need of improvement.

The new rules and the industry’s urgency to find solutions have brought the benefits of healthy, safe and energy-efficient heating even further into the spotlight. Now is the time to get up to speed with the optimum specification choices.

The underfloor solution

The leading solution, which ticks every box for both new and existing properties, is hydronic (water-based) underfloor heating. This technology works by circulating warm water through a series of continuous loops fitted underneath the floor, creating a large radiant surface that heats the room from the floor upwards. This tried and tested radiant form of heating – which dates back to Roman times – is much more comfortable than the convected heat provided by radiators which draw cold air across the floor before heating it and then convect the warm air upwards towards the ceiling.

As it covers a much greater surface area than radiators and is designed to run at low temperatures 35°C rather than the 70°C of a typical radiator system, underfloor heating is also the ideal solution to meet the revised regulations. In addition, this low-temperature system is an ideal partner technology for renewable energy sources, such as heat pumps.

Affordable warmth

A recent report from National Energy Action predicts that 6.7 million UK households could be in fuel poverty – an increase of 2.2 million from 2021, and these figures are set to rise. These people cannot afford to heat their homes, at a reasonable cost, to the temperatures required to be healthy and comfortable.

When asked about fuel poverty within the Housing Management & Maintenance study, 41% of respondents estimated that their tenants are fuel-poor, with 62% stating that reduced bills are very important for tenants. Underfloor heating is the solution to provide affordable warmth for today and the future.

As well as being up to 15-40% more efficient than an equivalent radiator system, once in place, a well-designed system will be able to run at the most efficient settings, further reducing bills and environmental impact. Underfloor heating systems can also be fully zoned, ticking a crucial regulatory box and minimising energy wastage. Each zone can be carefully controlled individually from a central thermostat or smartphone app.

Minimal maintenance and combats mould

Typically, traditional radiators require an annual check for air in the system/bleeding, and sometimes more invasive inhibitor dosing is needed – plus, they may need to be entirely replaced every 25 years.

In stark contrast, underfloor heating systems require very little maintenance and can last three times longer, with most offering at least a 75-year guarantee, providing additional reassurance that it will likely outlive the lifetime of the building. Good quality underfloor heating pipe, made from superior quality, five-layer, sustainable PERT (polyethylene of raised temperature resistance), can also be melted down safely and reused, offering a sustainable solution throughout the product’s life cycle.

Underfloor heating also combats mould thanks to the large expanse of heat radiating from the whole floor surface, warming surfaces and eliminating cold spots in a room where mould could develop.

Supports safety, health and well-being

One important aspect when incorporating health and well-being into the design of a property is air quality, notably to support those who suffer from allergies and asthma. While traditional radiator systems encourage allergens and dust to circulate into the air – which can exacerbate respiratory conditions – underfloor heating reduces the movement of these problematic particles, making it one of the healthiest ways to heat a building.

In fact, the International WELL Building Institute credits radiant heating technologies as the best way of heating for comfort. Underfloor heating also promotes a safe environment due to having no hard edges and no scalding surfaces, creating safer indoor environments for children, as well as elderly and vulnerable tenants.

Complete design freedom

Every inch counts within a property, particularly when space is at a premium. Underfloor heating is the perfect space-saving solution, as it frees up wall space and provides complete freedom for interior layouts and allows for the specification of extra-large windows, which let more light in, further increasing well-being.

This aspect is especially important when planning a home for those with additional needs. In addition, as the radiant heating system is fully concealed under the floor, walls are kept free to accommodate equipment or additional entrances, which may be vital for the occupant to move around the space, which can increase their safety and overall sense of well-being when living in the property.

Joanna Crown is marketing director at WMS and BEAMA Underfloor Heating group chair