Can you put underfloor heating under a raised access floor?

  • December 19, 2023
1024 683 CCL Interiors

Installing a raised access floor system is a popular choice for all sorts of facilities, from offices and data centres to schools and hospitals. By creating a void of 20mm to 1,500mm, you can run cables, pipes and other infrastructure directly to their destination without cluttering your space or creating a trip hazard. And those aren’t the only benefits of raised access flooring.

But can you put underfloor heating under a raised access floor?

Thankfully, you can! And it’s not just possible to install raised access floor underfloor heating. It’s actually very easy and affordable. That means you can keep your workers, customers, family or friends at a comfortable temperature throughout the year.

How does underfloor heating work?

Most properties – particularly older ones – rely on large radiators to heat an entire room from a limited number of spots. Underfloor heating replaces these with a series of mats, sheets, wires or pipes spread across your floor that heat your space evenly to the ideal temperature.

Depending on your flow screed and insulation layers, underfloor heating can require around 100mm – 150mm of space. That means raised access floor height is plenty large enough to install underfloor heating.

Types of underfloor heating

Water underfloor heating

Also called wet underfloor heating, this system involves a subfloor that holds a network of pipes connected directly to your central heating system. When turned on, heated water from your boiler flows through the pipes to heat your room. 

There are two types of water underfloor heating:

  • Buried underfloor heating uses pipes placed into your floor screed. These pipes are buried under the finished floor screed, and different areas are controlled by the underfloor heating manifold. Buried underfloor heating is the most efficient type of water underfloor heating, but is more appropriate for extensions and new builds that require new floor screeds.
  • Surface-mounted underfloor heating instals warm water pipes within insulated low-profile panels. This makes it easier to add water underfloor heating after construction, as it’s laid on top of an existing floor.

Wet underfloor heating is slightly more expensive to install compared to dry underfloor heating. But it’s also less costly to run.

Electric underfloor heating

Electric underfloor heating is sometimes called dry underfloor heating. This system is placed within or directly below your flooring. It works best in small spaces in which installing water underfloor heating would be difficult.

There are three main types of electric underfloor heating:

  • Matting is a great choice for large, regular-shaped rooms with stone or tile floors
  • Foil matting is specifically designed for use with laminate flooring
  • Loose wire is best for oddly shaped rooms, and works well with stone or tile floors

Dry underfloor heating is cheaper to install compared to water underfloor heating. But it can be more expensive to run.

Benefits of raised access floor underfloor heating systems

  • Heats evenly: While a conventional radiator heats from a single spot, underfloor heating is spread throughout your floor. That means it can heat every part of your room evenly, leaving no cold spots.
  • Energy efficient: Underfloor heating is up to 40% more energy efficient than a conventional radiator. Since radiators cover a much smaller surface area, they must reach higher temperatures to heat your room effectively.
  • Lowers your bills: Since underfloor heating warms your room evenly, you need to produce less heat to bring the entire space to your desired temperature. Underfloor heating systems overate at around 40oC compared to radiators at around 65oC. Running your heating system at a lower temperature for a shorter time means big savings on your energy bills.
  • Out of sight: Since underfloor heating is hidden away beneath your flooring, it doesn’t interfere with the beauty and aesthetics of your space.
  • Saves space: By removing bulky radiators, you can free up as much as 10% of your wall space. That leaves you more room for furniture and equipment, or simply to move around without clutter.
  • No risk of burns: A radiator that’s set to a high heat can be painful to touch. This is a major concern for parents of young children, as well as commercial premises that don’t want to be accused of poor safety management. But since underfloor heating is spread over a greater surface area, is hidden away and doesn’t reach such high temperatures, you can always enjoy it safely.

Where is raised access floor underfloor heating used?

The versatility of raised access floor underfloor heating makes it a popular choice in a wide range of commercial and domestic settings. These include:

  • Offices: Raised access floor underfloor heating pulls double duty in office spaces, as they provide effective heating while also concealing loose cables. This allows staff to work safely and comfortably, which can significantly improve their output.
  • Retail premises: Chilly customers don’t like to stick around and browse. And cold staff can find it much harder to do their job to a high standard. Thoroughly heating your space with a raised access floor underfloor heating system lets you create a comfortable retail environment that encourages purchasing and productivity.
  • Schools: Many schools still rely on outdated and inefficient heating systems. These often cost a lot of money to run but throw out very little heat. By switching to a raised access floor underfloor heating system, schools can create a more comfortable and cost-effective learning environment that helps children grow.
  • Hospitals: Underfloor heating is one of the preferred heating systems of NHS England. That’s because it’s shown to reduce the risk of infection, improve safety and maximise available space.
  • Homes: Every homeowner wants to lower their energy bills. And with underfloor heating, you can cut costs while maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature in any season or weather. They’re low maintenance, easy to install, hygienic and child safe, letting you and your family enjoy your home to the fullest.

How does underfloor cooling work?

Underfloor cooling functions very similarly to wet underfloor heating. Chilled water is pulled through a series of pipes connected to a heat pump or chiller. As the floor temperature drops, it absorbs excess heat energy, cooling the room above.

It’s possible to install both underfloor heating and underfloor cooling under a raised access floor. You can even heat one room and cool another at the same time from the same manifold.

Underfloor cooling around 200mm to 400mm of space. This is greater than the space needed for underfloor heating, but still easily within the ranges of raised access floor height.

Benefits of raised access floor underfloor cooling

  • Low annual cost: Energy consumption in an underfloor heating system is typically lower than a traditional air conditioner. And rather than relying solely on electricity, it often uses the natural cooling properties of the ground to deliver the same results. By using a raised access underfloor cooling system, you can expect to see a big reduction in your energy bills.
  • More comfortable: Underfloor cooling systems make it easy to control the temperature in your space. That means you can always achieve a level of heating or cooling that makes you most comfortable.
  • No draughts: Unlike air conditioning systems, underfloor cooling lowers room temperature through radiation. There’s no need for a constant flow of air, so you don’t need to deal with cold spots or draughts.
  • Quiet: These systems work quietly from underneath your flooring. They don’t emit the mechanical whirring of a conventional air conditioning system, letting you live or work in peace.
  • Freedom for interior design: Since the pipework for an underfloor cooling system is hidden out of sight, you won’t have unsightly units taking up space in your property. With more room available, you can commit to your chosen interior design theme without making compromises.
  • Easy to install: Traditional air conditioning units require a complex net of ducts and vents running through your walls and ceilings. This makes it very hard to install and maintain, especially if you’re retrofitting. But raised access floor underfloor cooling simply involves laying pipes, pedestals and flooring in an easily accessible space, saving you a lot of time, energy and hassle.

Where is raised access floor underfloor cooling used?

Much like underfloor heating, underfloor cooling is suitable for a range of locations. But it’s particularly useful for data centres, call centres, casinos and other facilities with a high number of servers or heat-generating equipment. In many of these places, installing raised access floor underfloor cooling is considered standard practice.

Data servers and other machinery can produce a high volume of heat during operation. When these overheat, it can cause equipment failure.

Raised access floor systems allow for the entire space to be cooled quickly and evenly, letting you maintain an ideal temperature across cabinets. This also has the potential for up to 40% reduction in cooling load, which can save you a lot of money over time.

Adequate airflow is required to allow these systems to cool effectively. In general, these raised access floors must have one perforated tile per 100 sq. ft. of flooring. Standard airflow panels permit around 22% to 35% airflow, while universal high-output air grates allow for 55% to 66% airflow.

Keep in mind that too few perforated tiles limits airflow and leads to recirculation of warm air. But too many increases bypass air, which doesn’t cool equipment productively.

Best raised access floor material for underfloor heating

Almost any raised access floor material can be used with an underfloor heating system. But the more conductive the material, the more efficient your system will be. That also means it’ll cost you less to run, as you’ll reach your ideal temperature much more quickly.

Common materials for raised access floor underfloor heating include:

  • Tile and stone: As highly conductive materials, both tile and stone are excellent floor coverings for underfloor heating. They also retain heat, making them very cost-effective.
  • Laminate: This hard-wearing material doesn’t warp under temperature changes. This makes it a great raised access floor material, especially when paired with foil matting.
  • Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVT): LVT is a highly durable raised access floor material that expands and contracts safely with changes in temperature.
  • Wood: In most cases, wooden flooring is a poor choice for underfloor heating. Most wood swells, contracts, warps and splits with changes in temperature and moisture content, which can ruin its beautiful appearance. Thick wood also acts as an insulator, which will prevent heat rising from your heating system into the room. However, if your heart is set on wooden flooring, use engineered wood with a thickness of 15mm to allow heat to pass through efficiently.
  • Carpet: Like wood, carpet is an excellent insulator, making it a poor choice of raised access floor material for underfloor heating. But carpet with a low tog and thermal resistance of no more than 1.5 will allow heat to pass through. Just bear in mind that a higher thermal resistance rating will mean a lower heat output. So you would need more pipes to compensate, increasing your heating costs.

Where can I get reliable raised access underfloor heating?

Although installing a raised access underfloor heating system is relatively easy, it still requires a team of trained specialists to get it right. That’s why hundreds of people across the UK and Ireland come to CCL Interiors.

With 40+ years of experience in providing top-quality interior fit-out solutions, our team can install your raised access floor system quickly, correctly and at a great price. We have full official accreditation in both occupational and Health & Safety standards, so you can have confidence in our first-class work. And if you need more proof, we’d be happy to share with you our proven track record in both public and private sectors, including commercial, residential, and hospitality and leisure projects.

Contact us today to arrange raised access floor underfloor heating installation for your space.