As temperatures drop and winter approaches, a reliable and efficient heating system becomes essential for a comfortable home. With various heating options available, it can be challenging to decide which system is right for you.

In this article, we’ll explore radiant floor heating and radiators, comparing their costs, energy efficiency, comfort, and other factors to help you make an informed decision.

Radiant Floor Heating: The Basics

Radiant floor heating, also known as underfloor heating, is a system where heat is distributed through the floor, creating a warm and comfortable surface to walk on.

This method of heating comes in two main types: electric underfloor heating and hydronic (water) underfloor heating. Electric systems use heating cables or mats embedded in the floor, while hydronic systems use a network of pipes that circulate heated water.

Electric Underfloor Heating

Electric underfloor heating utilizes a network of heating cables or mats embedded in the floor. These cables or mats contain electric resistance wires that generate heat when an electrical current is passed through them.

The heat then radiates through the floor, providing even warmth across the surface. Electric underfloor heating systems are usually simpler and quicker to install than hydronic systems, making them an attractive choice for small areas or renovation projects.

However, they can be less energy-efficient and more expensive to run, depending on local electricity rates.

Hydronic (Water) Underfloor Heating

Hydronic underfloor heating, also known as wet underfloor heating, relies on a series of pipes embedded in the floor.

These pipes circulate hot water, which is heated by a boiler or heat pump, through the system.

As the hot water flows through the pipes, the heat is transferred to the floor, creating a comfortable, evenly heated surface.

Hydronic systems are typically more energy-efficient than electric systems and can be more cost-effective to run, particularly in larger spaces or when combined with a high-efficiency heat source like a heat pump or solar panels.

However, they can be more complex and time-consuming to install, potentially increasing the initial installation cost.

Underfloor Heating vs Radiators: Pros and Cons

Underfloor Heating Pros and Cons

Even heat distribution across the roomTypically more expensive initial installation cost
Increased energy efficiency, especially in hydronic systemsPotential compatibility issues with certain floor coverings
Space-saving, as it is installed under the floorMore difficult to access for repairs and maintenance
Silent operation, with no moving partsElectric systems can have higher running costs
Reduces allergens, as it does not circulate airLonger warm-up time compared to radiators
Compatible with renewable energy sources (e.g., heat pumps, solar panels)Not suitable for all building types and structures
Improved aesthetics, with no visible radiatorsMay require additional heating in rooms with high heat loss

Radiators Pros and Cons

Generally lower initial installation costsUneven heat distribution, with hot and cold spots
Easier access for repairs and maintenanceTakes up valuable wall and floor space
Quick warm-up timeCan be noisy, as pipes and radiators expand and contract
Wide variety of styles and sizes availableLess energy-efficient compared to underfloor heating
Suitable for most building types and structuresCirculates air, potentially spreading allergens
Easy to retrofit in existing buildingsLess aesthetically pleasing, with visible radiators
Can be used with renewable energy sources (e.g., heat pumps, solar panels)Not compatible with all floor coverings

Comparing the Costs

The initial installation costs of radiant floor heating and radiators can vary significantly based on factors like the type of system, the size of your home, and labor costs in your area.



In general, radiant floor heating systems, particularly hydronic ones, tend to have higher installation costs compared to radiators.

This is due to the complexity of installing the pipes or cables under the flooring and potentially having to pour a new concrete layer for hydronic systems.

Radiators, on the other hand, have a simpler installation process and usually cost less upfront.

Running Costs of Electric Underfloor Heating vs Radiators

When it comes to running costs, electric underfloor heating systems can be more expensive than radiators, depending on local electricity rates.

A filter of a radiator heater. This is not needed for an underfloor radiant heating system.

This is because electric systems rely on electricity to generate heat, which can be costlier than gas or other fuels used in radiator systems.

However, the actual difference in running costs will depend on various factors, including the efficiency of your heating system, insulation, and room size.

Cost Effectiveness

The cost-effectiveness of underfloor heating vs radiators depends on several factors, such as the type of system, energy source, and insulation quality.

Generally, hydronic underfloor heating systems are more energy-efficient and cost-effective than electric systems and radiators, particularly when combined with high-efficiency heat sources like heat pumps or solar panels.

However, the upfront installation costs can be higher, so it may take longer to recoup your initial investment.

When comparing electric underfloor heating to radiators, the overall cost-effectiveness will depend on local electricity and fuel rates, as well as how efficiently the systems are used and maintained.

Regional Differences

Regional differences, like energy costs, labor rates, and climate, can influence the overall costs of underfloor heating and radiators.

In the US, for example, natural gas is a common and relatively affordable fuel source for radiator systems, which can make them more cost-effective to run compared to electric underfloor heating.

However, the increasing popularity of renewable energy sources and advances in insulation technology can help offset these differences and make underfloor heating more appealing in certain situations.

It is essential to consider regional factors and consult with local heating professionals to make the most informed decision for your specific location and needs.

Efficiency and Performance

Is underfloor heating more efficient than radiators?

In general, underfloor heating can be more efficient than radiators due to its even heat distribution and lower operating temperature.

Since underfloor heating systems provide a consistent temperature across the entire floor surface, there are no hot or cold spots, resulting in a more comfortable and energy-efficient environment.

A room in middle of underfloor heating tube installation.

Additionally, underfloor heating systems require lower water temperatures compared to radiators, which can lead to less energy consumption and reduced heating bills.

Hydronic underfloor heating systems, in particular, can offer even greater efficiency when paired with high-efficiency heat sources like heat pumps or solar panels.

Comparing the heating output of underfloor heating and radiators

The heating output of underfloor heating systems and radiators can vary depending on factors like the type of system, room size, and insulation.

While radiators can provide a higher heat output in a shorter amount of time due to their higher operating temperature, they may not distribute heat as evenly as underfloor heating systems.

This can result in hot and cold spots, making the room feel less comfortable overall.

In contrast, underfloor heating systems provide a more consistent heating output across the entire room, which can lead to a more comfortable environment.

However, underfloor heating systems may take longer to warm up compared to radiators due to their lower operating temperature.

It’s important to consider both the efficiency and performance of each system when making a decision, as well as factors like room size, insulation, and personal preferences.

Installation and Lifespan

Radiant floor heating systems can be more complex to install compared to radiators. This is especially true for hydronic underfloor heating, which involves embedding pipes in the floor and potentially pouring a new concrete layer.

Additionally, underfloor heating systems may require specific types of flooring or subflooring to ensure optimal heat transfer and performance.

The installation of electric underfloor heating systems is typically simpler, as it involves placing heating cables or mats beneath the flooring. However, it is still more involved than installing radiators.

Radiators, on the other hand, are generally easier and quicker to install, as they require mounting on walls and connecting to the existing heating system.

A radiator heater can be easily mounter on a wall.

There may be some complexities related to the piping and positioning of the radiators, but overall, the installation process is less labor-intensive than radiant floor heating.

B. How Long Does Underfloor Heating Last?

The lifespan of an underfloor heating system depends on the type of system, the quality of installation, and the level of maintenance.

In general, underfloor heating systems are known for their durability and can last for several decades with proper care.

Electric underfloor heating systems may have a shorter lifespan compared to hydronic systems, as the heating cables or mats can wear out over time. Hydronic underfloor heating systems, on the other hand, can last for up to 25 years or more, with the main components (pipes) having a significantly longer lifespan.

Regular maintenance and care can help extend the life of your underfloor heating system, ensuring you get the most out of your investment.

Underfloor Heating and Radiators: Working Together

Yes, you can use radiators and underfloor heating together in a single heating system.

Combining the two types of heating can provide you with the benefits of both systems, ensuring an efficient and comfortable indoor environment.

For example, you might choose to install underfloor heating in specific areas like bathrooms and kitchens, where the warm floor is particularly desirable, while using radiators in other rooms.

When designing a combined heating system, it’s essential to work with a heating professional to ensure proper integration and compatibility of the components, such as the boiler, control system, and distribution network.

Adding Underfloor Heating Alongside an Existing Radiator System

It is possible to add underfloor heating to a home that already has a radiator system in place.

This can be an excellent solution if you want to improve comfort in specific areas or if you are planning a home renovation or extension.

When integrating underfloor heating with an existing radiator system, you will need to consider factors like the capacity of your current boiler or heat source, as well as the control systems and distribution network.

In a new build, you need to consider whether it’s worthwhile installing radiators at all.

A heating professional can help you determine the feasibility of adding underfloor heating and ensure the proper design and installation of the combined system.

Keep in mind that adding underfloor heating to an existing home can be more complex and costly than installing it during new construction, as it may involve removing and replacing flooring or adjusting the existing heating system components.

However, the added comfort and potential energy savings may make it a worthwhile investment.

Choosing the Best Heating Option for Your Home

This table provides a comprehensive overview of the factors to consider when deciding between underfloor heating or radiators for your home.

Factors to ConsiderWhat to Look For
Initial installation costObtain quotes for both systems, considering labor, materials, and required equipment
Running costs (energy efficiency)Compare the efficiency of each system, taking into account local energy costs
Available space for heating equipmentAssess available floor space, wall space, and room layout for each heating option
Type of flooring and compatibilityEnsure the chosen heating system is compatible with your flooring material and structure
Required heating output and performanceCalculate heating needs based on room size, insulation, and desired comfort level
Aesthetics and personal preferencesConsider the visual impact of each system and how it aligns with your design preferences
Integration with existing heating systemDetermine if your current heating system can be adapted to work with the chosen option
Ease of maintenance and repair accessEvaluate the accessibility of each system for maintenance and potential repair needs
Climate and insulationTake into account the local climate and the insulation quality of your home
Control systems and automationInvestigate the available control options and their compatibility with your requirements
Installation timeline and disruptionConsider the time required for installation and the level of disruption to your home
Future-proofing and adaptabilityAssess the ability of each system to accommodate future changes or upgrades
Environmental impact and renewable energy compatibilityExplore options for using renewable energy sources with each system

Environmental Considerations: Underfloor Heating and Renewables

Underfloor heating, particularly hydronic systems, can have a lower environmental impact when combined with renewable energy sources.

For instance, heat pumps (air-source, ground-source, or water-source) and solar thermal panels can be utilized to provide an eco-friendly and efficient heat source for underfloor heating systems.

This combination can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, leading to a more sustainable heating solution.

Radiators, on the other hand, are often powered by natural gas or oil, which are non-renewable energy sources.

However, certain radiator systems can be adapted to work with heat pumps or other renewable energy sources.

When considering the environmental impact of your heating system, it’s essential to weigh the compatibility of both underfloor heating and radiators with renewable energy options.

Installing Underfloor Heating or Radiators in New Build Properties, Existing Builds, Single Room Renovations, and New Extensions

  1. New Build Properties: For new construction, both underfloor heating and radiators can be easily incorporated into the design. Installing underfloor heating during the construction phase is generally more cost-effective and straightforward compared to retrofitting it into an existing property. Radiators can also be easily integrated into the design, providing flexibility in the choice of heating systems.
  2. Existing Builds: Adding underfloor heating to an existing property can be more complex and disruptive due to the need to remove and replace flooring or adjust the existing heating system components. However, it can still be an excellent option for improving overall comfort and energy efficiency. Installing radiators in an existing property is usually less invasive and can be a more cost-effective option.
  3. Single Room Renovations: When renovating a single room, you have the opportunity to choose between underfloor heating and radiators based on your specific needs and preferences. Electric underfloor heating systems can be a convenient choice for single room renovations, as they require less invasive installation. Radiators can also be installed or replaced during a renovation, providing a relatively simple heating solution.
  4. New Extensions: For new home extensions, both underfloor heating and radiators can be incorporated into the design. If you’re extending your property, this is an excellent opportunity to consider underfloor heating, as the installation can be carried out during the construction process. Alternatively, you can choose to install radiators in the new extension and connect them to your existing heating system.

Maximizing Your Space with Underfloor Heating

One significant advantage of underfloor heating is its space-saving potential. Since the heating elements are installed beneath the flooring, there is no need for bulky radiators or other wall-mounted heating appliances.

This opens up valuable wall space and allows for greater flexibility in room design, furniture placement, and overall aesthetics.

With radiators, you must account for their size and location when designing room layouts, which can sometimes limit the options for furniture arrangement or the use of wall space.

Removing radiators from the equation can make your living space feel more open, uncluttered, and versatile.

The space-saving benefits of underfloor heating are particularly valuable in smaller rooms or homes with limited space, where every square foot counts.

By opting for underfloor heating, you can create a more spacious, comfortable, and stylish living environment.