How Electric Underfloor Heating Systems Work

by GuestPoster on July 3, 2010

Electric underfloor heating systems have really come of age in the last ten years.  This is especially true when considering the design, resilience, effectiveness, and lowered cost of the systems. For decades, residents of Europe often had little to no luck with these systems. Most were the wet-type, which used half-inch piping buried near the surface of their home’s foundation, and circulated hot water through the system for heating. Leaks from pipes rupturing made this a nasty mess at best. Electric systems however, are used in the mainstream today, and their installation, lack of maintenance and cost to operate make them the perfect choice over the older less efficient systems.

So exactly what is underfloor heating?  Essentially the operation of an underfloor electric heating sub-system operates on the same principle as a heating blanket or pad. Electricity flows through the elements built into the webbing and radiates heat outwardly. This is why when installing this type of heating product you do not want to apply it directly to a concrete or cement base, as it will draw the heat away from your flooring. An R24 or higher rated shield is suggested as a layer between the base and heating elements, usually one made of cork is a great redirecting insulation.

As the elements warm, they send out heat in all directions, and by using the insulation below, it will redirect all outgoing energy to the path of least resistance, which will be your flooring. Typically, these systems are thought of to be only used with stone or other organic tiles, but they work just as well with hardwood, linoleum, and wall-to-wall carpeting. There are specific rules and warnings for each category of flooring that should be followed, such as with carpets, a TOG rating of 2.5 should be used instead of the average 1.5 rating that most rugs offer. The TOG rating is a system that was developed in Europe in the 1940s to measure the warmth or thermal capturing value of clothing, but as you can see it is used in other areas that have similar values concerning textile products.

Since these electrical heating systems are zoned, and usually have a thermostat for each room in the home, it is very easy for a manufacturers technician to find a faulty area that is not working, and can customarily pinpoint the problem down to an area of one or two tiles. This was not the case in the past, and usually the whole flooring of a room would have to be removed to find the problem spot. The elements are usually worry free as the protective webbing keeps them from most forms of physical damage during the install.

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