There are several unique benefits when turning to underfloor heating that enable a comfortable and warm space during winter.
There are several prevailing opinions regarding underfloor heating in South Africa, some of which may be legitimate, however, most of them are based on myths throughout the years.
In fact, when looking to heat a home, electric floor heating is considered one of the safest and healthiest choices. It is hidden and quiet, enabling significant leeway in terms of designing any given space, i.e. aesthetics won’t compromise interior design.
According to Andrea Tsiteros, Marketing Manager at Speedheat, underfloor heating’s lack of open flames or red-hot surfaces prevents burning incidents of children and pets, and concurrently a much healthier living environment is created by eliminating the movement of air (convection heating). This prevents airborne allergens or dry air.
“The convection heating produced when using a traditional heater only warms the air in the room and not its occupants,” explains Andrea. “The hot air rises and the cold air sinks, causing extremely dry indoor conditions. This process causes cold air on the floor and in turn cold feet, tempting users to increase the setting on a heater. This dries the air out even more and increases energy consumption. However, heat generated from electric floor heating emits radiant heat. This type of heat doesn’t heat the air, but rather warms solid objects and occupants in a room by means of infrared radiation from the floor.”
Andrea goes on to explain the need for quick-response heating in South Africa, in order to effectively react to unpredictable SA weather conditions in winter (warm during the day and cold in the morning and evenings). This is in stark contrast to European weather conditions in winter.
“Quick-response heating can be better achieved with electric floor heating that has been installed just beneath the floor finish,” continues Andrea. “Response time varies from 15 – 30 minutes (depending on the thickness of the floorcovering) and heat will be evenly distributed throughout the room within an hour, while the cooling-down process takes 30 minutes to an hour. Furthermore, electric floor heating can be installed in both large and small areas, and for a number of commercial applications such as hotel lobbies, bathrooms, offices, boardrooms, cafeterias, hospitals, etc.”
Although tiles – especially marble, slate and natural stone – are considered ideal when attempting to heat a room because of their thermal conducting properties, wood, laminate and vinyl floors can also be heated in a safe and comfortable manner. However, in accordance with the guidelines stipulated by the SA Wood and Laminate Flooring Association, floor temperatures should not exceed 27˚C. This is to ensure that the floor finish is not damaged and aesthetic appearance is not compromised.
Even though running costs and electricity consumption are a concern for most people due to rising energy costs, Andrea is of the opinion that running costs of your underfloor heating can be contained with the installation of proper flooring insulation and correct programmable controllers. One must remember: floor heating is not the only contributor to a higher electricity bill in winter. In winter geyser duty cycles are longer, lights are on longer, stoves and ovens are used more compared to summer braais and salads.
“An underfloor heating consultant should advise on the correct flooring insulation and controller to be used with the chosen heating system in order to maximise comfort levels, increase response times and reduce energy consumption,” highlights Andrea. “Floor insulation also prevents downward heat loss into the concrete slab, increasing the efficiency of one’s heating system while also saving on energy consumption.”
Safety is another crucial factor to take into consideration when deciding on an underfloor heating system. As underfloor heating is categorised as a fixed appliance, it has to be earthed and connected through an earth leakage circuit breaker in order to comply with SANS regulations.
“It is also important to ensure that the underfloor heating company has a good reputation in the industry and that they offer after-sales support and warranties,” concludes Andrea. “The heating consultant has to listen to one’s needs and requirements attentively and carry out a thorough assessment on the area one wishes to heat. Lastly, heat loss areas should also be taken into consideration as it affects the performance of a heating system, ensuring the selected heating system meets desired expectations.”