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Hybrid UFH systems can tick the right heat boxes

Underfloor heating - whether wet or electric - is well placed to be part of a holistic design solution because it is economical, efficient and comfortable, says Steven Rooney

There is no single off-the-peg heating solution that suits every situation and it is no longer a case of considering the individual components in isolation. Now, the emphasis is on looking at the whole project design and mixing and matching various systems to achieve the most appropriate overall solution.

This is being driven by the building regulations which, in turn, are taking account of the sustainability agenda, energy use and reduction of CO2 emissions in buildings. As a consequence, I would argue that suppliers that provide total designed solutions rather than individual products are in a winning position.

Underfloor heating (UFH) - whether wet or electric - is well placed to be part of a holistic design solution. It scores well in terms of environmental performance and is regarded as economical, ultra- efficient and comfortable.

Simple to install and control, UFH wastes no heat at ceiling level and frees up valuable wall space, providing complete design freedom. Wet systems circulate water at low temperatures through a series of continuous pipe loops laid within a screed, or between timber joists, beneath the floor surface. Electric systems consist either of cables laid within the screed or cable mats laid on top of existing subfloors.

Importantly, UFH can tick the right boxes when it comes to working with renewable energy and sustainable solutions, yet it cannot do this in isolation.

One-stop-shop solution
It must be considered along with the other components that make up the floor such as insulation, screed and floor coverings as well as in relation to the energy source, the overall specification of the building and level of sustainability being sought.

In this market, it is increasingly important for companies to deliver a one-stop shop, solution-driven service that 'bolts' together multiple products to deliver true value to the client. And value, in these terms, represents more than price and product; it is about customer service and certainty with one point of contact, bespoke design, shortening of the build programme, ease of installation, compliance with regulations and end-user appeal, plus a warranty based on the knowledge that the company is well established and is likely still to be in existence in, say, 10 years' time.

Where UFH is wrapped within the flooring package and installed at the same time, it assists in shortening build programmes as it will virtually disappear within the schedule. Such time savings are almost impossible to achieve with traditional radiator systems as there are extra phases in the installation.

The market for UFH continues to expand rapidly. Whereas once systems were predominately specified for apartments, they are now increasingly used in houses and seen as a selling point.

Indeed, hybrid installations with a wet system downstairs and electric system upstairs, managed by seamless central control, are increasingly common, but mean that suppliers able to specify total solutions are even more important.

//The author is sales director at Gaia Climate Solutions (DEVI Projects Partner) //

28 May 2012

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