TO MOST people underfloor heating is an expensive luxury, only to be found in the bathrooms of five star hotels.
According to Walter Stephens of the Tile and Devi Centre in Dublin though, this is a misconception and quality underfloor heating is a luxury that everyone can afford. "People have an idea that it is expensive and that you are limited in the floor surfaces you can lay on top, but neither idea is true," he said.
"Not only is it cheap to run and you can lay any surface you like on top, from carpet to wood."
The Tile and Devi Centre offers design, installation and commissioning service for bathrooms and underfloor heating jobs, and is an accredited dealer for Devi heating.
"The Devi heating components we install are dry and not wet systems, so there are no boilers, radiators, pipes or unsightly components. Instead the system uses electrical elements in the floor, controlled by thermostats on the wall," said Stephens.
Older underfloor heating systems use hot water pipes embedded in the floor to provide heating, but this system is not only costly, it can cause significant inconvenience in the event of a leak or a break in the pipes. "Dry heating means there are no water pipes and so the range of flooring surfaces that can be laid on top is much greater," said Stephens.
The pipes themselves are actually a flexible electrical heating element, with a low wattage per square metre. In essence, the principle is not enormously different from that used by the average kitchen kettle.
"They are completely safe and you can use any kind of floor finish on top of it, from carpet, to wood, to stone, to tiles to whatever. We recommend the most suitable types to deal with the heat, but there is no real limit," said Stephens.
The Tile and Devi Centre offers two types of underfloor system, depending on whether the floor is being laid for the first time or if heating is to be fitted to an existing floor.
"It's a little more expensive to fit than traditional heating system, but it is not expensive to run at all. In general it costs between ?32 and ?35 per square metre installed, although every job is different. For example, there are economies of scale if we do an entire house, rather than just a bathroom," he said.
As a standalone job, fitting underfloor heating to the average bathroom costs around ?500 including installation, and takes a couple of hours. "The beauty of underfloor heating though is the running costs. It is about 20 to 25 percent cheaper than gas or oil to run," said Stephens.
With conventional heating, the heat originates half way up the room from radiators, rises and falls before warming the room. Because heat from underfloor heating is evenly spread around the room it rises evenly and so costs less to heat the room.
"All kinds of people are installing this kind of technology - there is no distinction in the kids of houses that have it fitted, from apartments to castles and corporation terraced houses to hotels.
We can give our customers accurate running costs long before the heating is even fitted, simply by looking at the design of their bathrooms.
This can actually be a real advantage when budgeting the cost of building a bathroom," said Stephens. For more information on underfloor heating, contact the Tile and Devi Centre at 01 287 1172.