How does it work (i.e. one's water powered, one is electrical)
There are two basic types,
Electric – Where an electric wire is buried either into the tile cement or a layer of concrete and this heats the floor. Some electric systems, such as the Vogue one have the wire fixed to a mat, which has the benefit of giving a consistent even heat, and is easy to lay. They come in various powers, for example the Vogue unit is 150 watts per square metre. The down side to the electric wire type is that unless it is laid with identical gaps, it will give uneven heating across the floor.
Hydronic – Where water pipes are buried into the mass of the floor, and operated via a boiler.
Best suited to (existing structures, new builds etc)
Electric- Under floor heating is ideal for renovations, replacement bathrooms / kitchens or extensions. Because it is fitted into the tile adhesive, or alternatively into a screed just before tiling, disruption is minimal and new tiles will invariably be laid any way, so this is an easy, quick and profitable addition. Additionally the perceived benefit of under floor heating is high.
Hydronic - Under floor heating is mainly used on new builds, as it has to buried quite deep into the flooring.
Installation (plus include how much each alters the height of an existing floor approx)
Electric – Installation is quick and easy, and although the final connection to the mains should be carried out by a qualified electrician, the actual laying will normally be carried out by the person laying the tiles, or even a competent DIY’er. Due to the very thin wire used this system will typically only raise the floor by about 5mm.
Hydronic – Installationis an expensive and complex process. The water pipes are normally buried in a 75mm mass of concrete, which is why this system is only used in new build, where this can be accommodated so that there is no increase in floor height.
Set up costs
Electric – Negligible, you only have to purchase the system and have it fitted while the tiles are being laid. The Vogue system is a one box solution, with everything that is needed in one box. This includes the correctly sized heating mat, a touch screen programmable controller, floor sensor and even a multi meter, so that the mat can be checked at the beginning and during laying, to ensure nothing has been damaged.
Hydronic –Parts and labour will be expensive, however we do not supply this type of system so I could not be more specific.
Maintenance (good to keep a plan of where all the pipes are etc, what if something goes wrong with it)
Electric – Running costs are affected by so many variables that it is unwise to give a figure. However the system is rated at 150W per square metre, so even when running continuously it will only consume 150 watts per hour per square metre. Or the same one and half 100W light bulb. In practice it will be less than this, because the programmable controller will cut off the power when the floor reaches the set temperature, making this a very efficient form of heating.
As there are no moving parts, and nothing carrying water the system is virtually maintenance free. This is one of its main advantages, especially for land lords, as there is no need for an annual inspection certificate, unlike a gas central heating system.
Hydronic – no comment