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Underfloor Heating - all smoke and mirrors

Updated on June 17, 2012
Remains of Ancient Roman underfloor heating ducts
Remains of Ancient Roman underfloor heating ducts

Geeks rule – okay!

Unless we choose to disregard all the things that history books and tour guides tell us, we should doff our hats to the illustrious Romans – hi-tech geeks of the day - for introducing the first central heating sytem in the guise of underfloor heating.

Unbelievably, it all started about 100 years or so before Jesus was even a twinkle in Mary’s eye – well over 2000 years ago - way before boliers were invented. No boilers here, no boiler repair for these guys.

Underfloor heating - good for everyone

The Romans constructed ducts beneath floors, lit wood burning furnaces and encouraged warm air and smoke to circulate through the ducts to warm the floors of the rooms above - the first form of underfloor heating.

Examples can be found in sites around the world, from Italy, to the outer reaches of the empire. Cosy for occupants, and a snug winter’s job for slaves tending the wood burners – good for all concerned…. and no loft insulation either....

A Great Beach Read

Kindle version
Kindle version | Source

Early underfloor heating not so good

…. Except they probably suffered terrible chest disease due to flue gases filtering through cracks in the floors – but at least they were warm whilst coughing and spluttering their way to the grave –

Burning solid fuel yields particulate pollution - solid particles smaller than a red blood cell which have been implicated in 30,000 deaths in the US and 2.1 million deaths world wide per year. . "Particulate pollution is the most important contaminant in our air. ...we know that when particle levels go up, people die”. - Joel Schwartz, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health, E Magazine, Sept./Oct. 2002


All manner of creations
All manner of creations

Underfloor heating not a bad idea

It took the world another couple of millennium to realise underfloor heating, wasn’t such a bad idea after all, and they promptly re-invented it. Up until then, it was believed an open fire was the thing and all manner of inglorious creations could be found.

Off-peak electricity for underfloor heating.

Electric underfloor heating made a tentative appearance mid twentieth-century. Insulated heating elements were buried in concrete floors, heated by off-peak electricity during the night. Temperature control was a hit and miss affair with the floors distributing most of the stored heat early morning but yielding little heat by evening – not ideal.

Modern underfloor heating systems have evolved.

Modern heating systems such as the one created by by HandyHeat of Nottingham UK  (see the associated diagram) are different, science rules, okay!

Modern systems can be installed to run by either electricity or hot water. A layer of insulating material beneath the heating elements ensures no heat escapes downwards through the floor.

Compared to conventional central heating, electrical or hot water underfloor heating tends to give uniform heat distribution - creating a cosy room, with lower air temperatures than produced by conventional heating systems.

Hot air rises

Most of the heat generated by conventional central heating comes from several, single-source, air convectors (individual devices for heat are wrongly called radiators). Hot air from the single-source heater rises, until ultimately, the ceiling becomes the warmest place in the room without necessarily circulating around the room, which is absolutely wasted heat.

Conversely, the warmth generated by underfloor heating is released gently but evenly over the whole area of the room, and this is absorbed by people and objects in the room with very little heat managing to escape.

Conditions are ideal for comfort - snug feet, cool head, and boy do you notice the difference when you walk into a room. I’ll bet the Romans would have just loved it.

Long live underfloor heating!


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Its not easy anyway to pay attention regarding this matter. I really understand your article. Thank you for sharing this with us readers.

    • profile image

      plumbing supplies 

      7 years ago

      Under floor heating is something very complicated to understand. But with the help of your article I guess now I can say a little about this topic.

    • ajbarnett profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain

      Thank you for the comment. Glad you found it of interest.

    • profile image

      Underfloor Heating Installing 

      7 years ago

      very interesting blog l love the info i find it to be very useful, awesomely informative, great post


    • ajbarnett profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain

      Thanks LondonGirl .... tongue in cheek .....

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      great article - "besides underfloor heating, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

    • ajbarnett profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain

      I'm glad you think so, Galvin, Thank you.

      My personal reputation is on line when I suggest an external company - which is why I rarely do it. Glad you had a good experience. I'd hate to get it wrong.

    • profile image

      Galvin Broughton 

      9 years ago

      At last someone has taken time and effort in submitting articles - well written and very informative thanks. I have bought off these guys and the service is fantastic !!


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