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Underfloor Heating versus Radiators in Ireland

Updated 29th November 2018

Radiators as a heat source have had their day - underfloor does a much better job at keeping your house cosy, looking stylish and environmentally friendly.

If you don't like walking on cold tiles, if you don't like your wall space cluttered by ugly radiators, if you don't like draughts and want your house to be cosy warm throughout then underfloor heating is the way to go.

Hot Head and Cold Feet

Radiators are often chosen because they get hot fast when working off oil or gas. However all the hot air the radiator generates rises straight up your wall to the ceiling where it will tend to sit. All that lovely warmth will be hanging over your head and unless you live in upside-down world you don't benefit from the tropical temperatures that will build up on your ceiling. Eventually the room will heat from the top down with your head receiving the most heat (giving you an unpleasant stuffy sensation) and your feet the least.

Tiles - if there is one thing that doesn't work well with radiators it's tiles. For most of the year you can forget about tiles in downstairs rooms feeling warm. With underfloor you can kick off your shoes as you enter the house and walk comfortably from room to room in your socks. With radiators you should invest in a nice pair of comfy slippers for yourself and the rest of your family. Everyday you can enjoy the fun family game of "slippers hide and seek" - it's even more fun when you have to get up during the night. If you have a ground floor bathroom then be prepared to buy those unhygienic floor mats for when you're brushing your teeth or if you like to take your time on the loo. Don't forget to buy more mats for any children playing on the floor. Or if you find it hard to wake up in the morning put your bare feet on the cold tiles to give yourself an icy jolt. The first thing you will think is 'why didn't I get underfloor heating!'. Of course if you are a slippers fan you can still enjoy them on underfloor heating - they just don't need to lined with polar bear fleece to keep your toes toasty.

As the radiator drives warm air up to your ceiling it draws in cool air from the floor. And what's another word for air movement - yes that's right - a draught. And draughts are famous for one thing - giving you a chill. Radiators work by creating a continuous draught - so at the same time it is warming up the air it is also giving you a wind-chill - talk about giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

With underheated feet and a overheated head along with a continous draught you can forget about feeling cosy. If only there was a system where a gentle warmth was generated directly beneath you and warmed your feet equally to the rest of your body. Well, you guessed it, there is - underfloor heating!

Goddamn Ugly

Everybody's taste is different but I hate the sight of radiators with their pipes, bolts and grilles. Plumbers are now using flexible plastic piping rather than rigid copper pipes - so don't count on the pipes being straight. You have to cut holes through your nice flooring for the pipes and don't count on those holes being cut neatly. Your radiators aren't on for half the year but they are there looking at you all year long. Radiators are bad enough when they are new but it isn't long before they go off colour, get scratched, dented and rusty. Forget about touching up any marks on your radiators - to do it properly they need to be uninstalled, sprayed and reinstalled. Finally there's nothing quite like painting your wall a beautiful colour to draw your eye to the big ugly white radiator in the middle. Your best option is to paint all your walls white which will help to disguise them. You can hide them with a wooden cover but wouldn't it better not to have them in the first place.

Get in the Way

You have a new house - it's a blank canvas for furniture and artwork - oh no - that would be a perfect place for my bookshelf but there is a radiator in the way! Radiators are unnescessary clutter which ruin the interior design of a modern house. You lose a lot of wall space - radiators reduce and restrict the places where you can put shelving and presses. They make it hugely much more difficult to paint the walls and skirting boards. It's difficult to vacuum and mop behind pipes sticking out of floor. They gather dust which is really difficult to clean. Children and radiators don't go together - they can be burnt by hot radiators or crash in to them when they are playing.

Damp

You can throw a tea-towel or wet gloves on a radiator but you're eventually going to end up with a rusty radiator. Radiators are useless at drying tiled floors which take ages to dry after mopping. Door mats and hallways take longer to dry from wet shoes. Clothes take longer to dry on clotheshorses and you can leave you with a damp smell from your clothes. Wet shoes take forever to dry.

So in summary radiators are bad at heating rooms and look terrible! If I had the choice between radiators versus underfloor heating I would definitely give underfloor heating a try. Unfortunately I have decades of non-cosy heating ahead of me and a houseful of ugly radiators to look at. Underfloor will cost more to install than radiators but you will get a lot more value for money.

If you're now convinced that underfloor is for you then check out my article Installing Underfloor Heating for obstacles you may encounter in achieving home heating heaven.