Underfloor Heating Vs. Radiators

Updated March 23, 2017

Underfloor heating and radiator heating are two methods of heating a building using water and electricity. Underfloor heating systems are relatively new to the construction industry and are becoming widely popular in the United States and United Kingdom. Radiators have been around for decades and while the presentation of the system has changed from the old-fashioned cast-iron models to a smaller baseboard model, the basic concept remains unchanged. There are differences not only in the workings of these two heating methods, but also in the economic, environmental and aesthetic impact on a building.

Inner Workings

Underfloor heating, also referred to as radiant heating, uses layered plastic pipes placed under flooring to transport water that has been warmed using electricity. The warm water radiates heat into the air above it.

Radiators, on the other hand, use electrically heated water circulated through metal pipes in the walls and ceilings, and produce heat by convection heating. This process uses air around the radiator and warmed by the heated water to circulate a warm air current through the radiator and out into the desired space.

Energy Usage

Underfloor heating conserves an estimated 10 to 40% in electricity costs because little heat is wasted in the radiant heat process. Warm air rises up from the floor and only loses 2 degrees of heat for every 2 meters it rises.

Radiators, while efficient in their initial electrical usage, can be costly because they take a while to heat up and cool down. They also can have circulation problems in that water gets pushed through the pipe system and back into the radiator before it has lost all of its heat, thereby not heating the intended area as it should. People then tend to raise the temperature, using more electricity.

Air and Noise Pollution

Underfloor heating cuts down on air pollution because it does not push air through its system, and due to the moisture content of the warmed air it creates, it reduces the likelihood of dust mites by making the environment inhospitable to their survival. Also, this form of heating is silent.

Radiators circulate more air and collect dust while making an obtrusive banging or clanking noise as the water-filled metal pipes expand and retract while being heated.


When using radiators, a homeowner must be conscious of the space around the radiator; if this space is blocked in any way the main source of heat, convection air heating, will be blocked. Heavy furniture and draperies must not be placed close to the radiators. This causes decorating dilemmas and space issues.

However, with underfloor heating, there are no bulky radiators to consider as all of the piping is hidden under the floor. You gain space and decorating options with the use of radiant heat.


The original purchase and installation costs for radiators and underfloor heating are comparable, but the costs differ once the systems are in use. Not only do underfloor heating systems waste less electricity, saving money on the electric bill, they also require less maintenance than radiators.

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About the Author

Charlotte Mission is an avid reader and writer. She has written professionally for over 5 years and for pleasure for many more. Her work has appeared on and She is currently pursuing a degree in History.