What’s the difference between apples and oranges? If you’re comparing quotes between electric underfloor heating and warm water underfloor heating, that’s a question you need to be able to answer.
Electric underfloor heating consists of a network of wires that form a resistance heater – like a big electric blanket. The wires are installed in a layer underneath your tiles. Usually they’re close to the surface.
When you switch the system on, the electric heater warms up your floor. It’s controlled by a thermostat.
Warm water floor heating (sometimes called hydronic heating) is a similar concept but instead of electric wires, we use a network of pipes embedded in the concrete floor slab with warm water flowing through them.
Both types of systems have their pros and cons.
The electric system is much cheaper to install, but much more expensive to run. Because it’s installed just under your tiles instead of deep in the concrete slab, it’s much faster acting than a warm water system.
This means it’s good for occasional-use areas. For example, you might install it in a small ensuite where you can switch on the floor heating when you walk in the room, and it will warm up in a couple of minutes.
By contrast, a warm water system would typically take at least 24 hours to heat your entire floor slab. It’s designed to keep your whole house warm all winter.
For a comprehensive solution you can actually install both systems. The warm water system heats your whole house during the cold months, and you install electric tile heating in your bathrooms that you can use during summer.
There’s no conflict between the two systems because the pipes are in the slab, and the electric heating wires are just under the tiles. Using one system doesn’t damage the other. The extra cost of installing a modest amount of electric floor heating just in your bathrooms is usually not high.
This is the best option for total home comfort because it gives you the advantage of cheaper heating for your whole home using the warm water system, plus you get the fast acting tile heating in summer when the warm water system is switched off.