The future of Heating
The 2025 ban on gas boilers in new builds which was announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement may have caused concern for some, but the widespread adoption of renewable energy technology opens up a new conversation around how we might heat our homes in the future.
Using underfloor heating can prove to be more energy effective in heating a room – whereby a large radiant floor surface area heats the space above it – than using convected heat provided by radiators which draws cold air across the floor before heating it. Using underfloor heating also enables designers to configure rooms to embrace features including floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing more light to flood into an internal space.
How underfloor heating works
By making the floor the warmest part of the room air cools as it rises, giving occupants heat where it is needed. This is also better for the environment since heat is not wasted through being lost from a building’s roof.
Underfloor heating works by circulating warm water through a series of continuous loops that are fitted underneath a floor, creating a large radiant surface that heats the room from the floor upwards. This radiant form of heating is more comfortable than the convected heat provided by radiators which draws cold air across the floor before heating it and then convects the warm air upwards towards the ceiling.
Underfloor heating v radiators
Earlier this year the UK government announced plans to phase out gas-powered central heating as part of its proposed Future Homes Standard. This means that by 2025 all new homes built will have to adopt alternative means of keeping warm. No gas, basically. Electric radiators are not the answer due to the impact on annual running costs, not to mention how the national grid will cope with the huge increase in demand.
Indeed solely using electricity to heat a home can be very costly, average costs are around 13p/kWh with gas at an average 3.4p/kWh this translates to 382% more expensive to run .
And switching to a direct electricity source is unlikely to lead to significant efficiencies, since some systems offer less output than input. But an air source heat pump combined with an underfloor heating system will result in every 1kWh of electricity required producing a further 4 kWh (4.0 + coefficient of performance) of energy – which means it is 400% efficient.
Heat Pumps and UFH - The perfect combination for efficiency
Heat pump efficiency is measured by its Coefficient of Performance (CoP), which shows how efficiently the ground and air source heat pump systems can heat your home under the best possible conditions. Using this scale, air source heat pump efficiency can be as high as 4, whereas ground source heat pumps can reach up to 5. This means that for every unit of electricity you put in, the heat pumps have the potential to produce 4 and 5 units of heat respectively.
To put this into perspective, electric heaters operate at around 100% efficiency (one unit of electricity produces one unit of heat), and even brand-new oil and gas boilers only function at an efficiency of around 90%.
There are several reasons why underfloor heating works more efficiently with renewable energy technology than radiators do.
First, heat is extracted from the external ambient air and utilised through the heat pump to warm the property. Even in the depths of winter there is enough heat outside for a heat pump to turn into energy, total absence of heat energy (0 Kelvin) is - 2730°C!!!
Underfloor heating covers a greater surface area and can therefore run at lower temperatures – at 45°C rather than 80°C. The demand underfloor heating places on energy sources is therefore significantly less, making them ideal for use with heat pumps.
The modern heat pump, along with the low water temperature requirement of underfloor heating makes them a perfect combination for an energy efficient and cost effective heating system.