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Underfloor Heating vs. Radiators: What to choose?

A bedroom with a radiator. The homeowner chose a traditional radiator rather than underfloor heating, to add to the aesthetic of the room.

Are you planning a big home renovation project? Or maybe extending to get your dream kitchen? Whatever your vision, there’s nothing like a nice, warm, cosy home to return to at the end of a long day at work. Choosing the right heating system is a key piece of your design, and here at GLP, we have the expertise to guide you in getting this spot on. In this guide, we’ll compare radiator and underfloor heating systems so you can think through what will suit your home and lifestyle best.

Underfloor Heating Systems

Underfloor heating refers to a heating system installed beneath the floor, which heats the room from the ground up. There are primarily two types of underfloor heating:

  • Electric systems
  • Hydronic systems (wet underfloor heating system)

Underfloor heating is ideal for new builds or major renovations, as the installation is more complex than with radiators. It works well under tiles and stone flooring, providing even and efficient heat. Laying heating elements under the floor surface might require raising the floor levels, but this can be factored into the building design so it doesn’t impact the positioning of doorways.

It is possible to install underfloor heating in older homes without digging up the concrete floors or lifting the floorboards by using overlay underfloor heating, which is low profile and simple to install.


Radiators transfer thermal energy from one medium to another to heat your home. They can come in various forms:

  • Steam radiators  – use steam generated by a boiler.
  • Hot water radiators  – circulate hot water.
  • Electric radiators  – generate heat through electrical elements.

Most homes in the UK will use hot water radiators or electric radiators in their central heating systems. 

Should You Choose Underfloor Heating Or Radiators?

When considering heating options for your home, you are likely to be deciding between underfloor heating and radiators, or wondering if you should use underfloor heating to replace radiators. There are several factors which might help you to decide which is the best heating solution:

  • The suitability of the space
  • Purchase and installation costs
  • Running costs
  • Aesthetics
  • Safety

Underfloor Heating vs Radiators: A Quick Guide

Underfloor HeatingRadiators
SuitabilityIdeal for new builds or major renovations. Can be installed on any floor. Works well under tiles or stone flooring.Best for older buildings where they can be retrofitted with minimal disruption. Existing systems can easily be upgraded or extended. Can be installed on any floor.Efficient in smaller spaces or where quick heating is needed.
Types available– Electric underfloor heating
– Wet System Underfloor Heating
– Steam Radiators
– Hot Water Radiators
– Electric Radiators
Initial costsMore of an investment. Floor layout and type of system can impact pricing.Cheaper to install as they are less complex to fit, particularly if you only want to add a new radiator to an existing system.
Running costsMore energy efficient than radiators, so it could reduce energy bills. Maintenance and repair are more challenging.Less energy efficient.Easier and cheaper to maintain and repair.
Heating efficiencyProvides an even distribution of heat.Uneven heating of the air can form warmer spots near the radiators and cold spots further away.
Energy useGeothermal heat pump or solar energy-powered underfloor systems can be more efficient and environmentally friendly.Radiators are usually heated by gas or oil-fired boilers. If powered by heat pump systems, you will need specific low-temperature radiators.
AestheticsThe pipework is buried, so it is almost invisible. The manifold is stored away.Takes up wall space. Come in a range of styles and sizes. Can be a feature.
Comfort No hot surfaces or sharp corners to run into, so it is safer for young families and pets.Allows for individual room temperature control.Heats up quicker than underfloor heating.
Safety featuresNo hot surfaces or sharp corners to run into, so safer for young families and pets.

Costs Of Radiators Or Underfloor Heating

Initial Costs

The upfront cost of underfloor heating tends to be higher than that of installing radiators due to the complexity of the installation and the materials used. Factors affecting the cost include the type of system and the floor layout.

Running Costs

When considering the heating options for your home, it’s important to weigh the running costs of underfloor heating against traditional radiators.

Underfloor heating, which distributes heat evenly across the floor via a network of pipes or electric coils, tends to be more energy-efficient compared to radiators. This system eliminates cold spots and provides consistent warmth, which can lead to lower thermostat settings and, subsequently, reduced energy consumption. Radiators heat the air nearest to them first, which often results in uneven heating and higher temperatures to achieve the same level of comfort, potentially increasing energy usage.

Although the initial installation cost of underfloor heating can be higher, the operational expenses are generally lower over time. Customers find that underfloor heating systems typically require less maintenance than radiators as they do not require bleeding, painting or rebalancing.

For UK homes, where the need for effective heating is essential due to the often chilly climate, underfloor heating stands out as a highly efficient and comfortable choice. This makes it a sensible investment for those looking to achieve long-term savings and enhance their living environment.

If the installation costs and running costs are an important part of your choice between underfloor heating and using radiators for your home’s heating system, then we’d recommend taking a look at What’s The Cheapest Heating System In The UK? for the pros and cons of each type of central heating system. 

Suitability For Different Home Types

The type of home you live in and the look and feel you are aiming for can guide your decision-making when you’re looking for a new heating system. Each system – central heating and radiators, or underfloor heating – has its own strengths that suit different housing types and needs.

Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating is a superb choice if you’re building a new home or undertaking a major renovation. This system is typically installed beneath your flooring, making the process easier during construction phases when floors are already due to be laid out. It’s especially effective under hard surfaces like tiles or stone, which conduct and store heat well, ensuring the warmth is spread evenly across the room. If you love a minimalist design and a warm floor underfoot on chilly mornings, underfloor heating could be the way to go. It is possible to retrofit underfloor heating either as part of extensive renovations or by using a low profile underfloor heating which is designed specifically for this purpose.

Choosing a heating system can also impact your home’s interior aesthetics. Underfloor heating offers an invisible solution. Without any visible components, it allows complete freedom in interior design as you won’t need to plan your furniture placement around radiators.

Underfloor heating distributes heat uniformly, creating a consistently warm environment that radiates from the floor upwards. This method of heating a home reduces the movement of dust and avoids the creation of overly dry air, common with radiator systems. Underfloor heating might enhance your comfort if you have allergies or prefer a home environment that feels naturally warm without blasts of hot air.

Traditional Central Heating Systems And Radiators

On the other hand, radiators are particularly suited to older buildings. They are less invasive to install, which makes them ideal for quick retrofits where you want to avoid the extensive work involved in fitting underfloor heating. Radiators work efficiently in smaller spaces or in rooms that require quick heating. They can quickly ramp up the temperature, making them perfect for heating up a space swiftly and efficiently.

Radiators allow you to heat specific areas of your home efficiently. This is particularly useful in the colder months or in typically chillier rooms, as you can turn on the heat only where and when it’s needed, avoiding the wastage associated with heating unoccupied spaces. This can be a real advantage in larger homes where heating the entire space might not always be necessary. Customers who work from home often opt for an electric radiator as a way of heating only their home office – particularly if this space is in a garden room or annexe.

Additionally, modern radiators can be quite sophisticated in terms of controlling the temperature. Many models come with thermostatic valves, which let you adjust the heat output of each radiator. This means you can set a higher temperature in rooms that are used more frequently, and lower in those that aren’t, enhancing your overall comfort while keeping energy consumption in check.

If you have a period property or are hoping to achieve a vintage look, you might choose radiators that add to your aesthetic. Traditional radiators can help build towards a classic Victorian or Edwardian theme. Available in a variety of styles and sizes, they can be a statement feature in their own right, contributing to the room’s character while providing essential warmth.

Performance And Efficiency

Heating Efficiency

Underfloor heating is great for providing an even distribution of heat throughout a room. This system operates by gently warming the entire floor area, resulting in a consistent temperature from the ground up. This method eliminates the cold spots that can often be found in rooms heated by radiators. Radiators, on the other hand, work by heating the air directly around them. This creates a temperature gradient, with the warmest air rising to the ceiling and cooler air settling down low. This often makes a room feel colder than it should, especially in areas far from the radiator.

Energy Use And Environmental Impact

Underfloor heating systems can also be seen as a greener option, particularly when they are part of a setup powered by renewable energy sources like solar or geothermal power. A water-based underfloor heating system which circulates warm water through pipes under the floor is especially efficient when integrated with these sustainable energy sources. They reduce the carbon footprint and can lower energy bills in the long term.

Radiators typically depend on boilers that burn fossil fuels, which can be less efficient and more harmful to the environment. The efficiency of a radiator is also affected by its placement and the home’s insulation. To maximise a radiator’s efficiency, it’s important to consider where they are installed and ensure that the home is well insulated to prevent heat loss.

Keep Your Home Warm With GLP HVAC Services

Don’t let chilly weather affect your comfort at home. Whether you opt for the quick warmth of radiators or the luxurious comfort of underfloor heating, our skilled team is ready to guide you through every step—from selecting the best option for your home to professional installation. We provide a thorough evaluation during our free property assessment to ensure that whichever system you choose fits perfectly with your space and heating requirements. Contact us today to enhance your living space with efficient, reliable heating that you can count on season after season.

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