With the number of asthma and allergy sufferers in the UK ever increasing, to create healthy and safe homes, it’s key to ensure indoor air quality is built into the very fabric of a property. Here Ashley Cooper, Managing Director at WMS, a leading supplier and installer of underfloor heating systems, explains why specifying radiant heating into new or existing social housing properties will benefit both occupants and the environment.

Importance of air quality

“Good indoor air quality benefits every resident but is particularly important for those living with respiratory and allergic diseases, as well as vulnerable groups including children and the elderly. The UK has some of the highest rates of asthma in the world, 5.4 million sufferers, and 21.3 million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy. One of the biggest causes of allergies are dust mites, as such, focusing on reducing the movement of dust and allergens in the home is crucial.

While there are many factors which can contribute to poor indoor air quality, the way a home is heated can have a big effect when it comes to creating a comfortable, healthy and safe environment.

When you think of dust ridden items in a home, soft furnishings immediately spring to mind as these materials are known to harbour dust mites, skin cells and dander. However, another big culprit are radiators as they are magnets for dust and germs which gather behind and inside the difficult to clean panels. Then, when the system is turned on, the convected heat generated encourages these problematic particles to circulate into the atmosphere. This process can worsen respiratory and asthma symptoms.”

Switching up the physics

“In contrast to traditional heating options, underfloor heating circulates warm water through a series of continuous loops which are fitted under the floor, creating a large radiant surface which heats a room from the floor upwards. This radiant form of heating is not only much more comfortable than the convected heat provided by radiators, but it also minimises the movement of dust, dander and dust mites, as it is not using air to heat the room, making it one of the healthiest ways to heat a home. 

“Designed to cover a much greater surface area than radiators, underfloor heating runs at lower temperatures (45°C rather than 80°C) when compared to traditional convection radiator systems. This factor also makes underfloor heating perfectly suited to pair with renewable energy sources and addresses the upcoming low water temperature update to the Building Regulations and Part L, which come into force this June and will affect newly built homes.

“As heat radiates from the whole floor surface it also eliminates cold spots from the room where mould could develop. Mould not only adds to property maintenance requirements but can also trigger respiratory conditions too. Another added benefit of removing radiators is that occupants can’t use them to dry clothing, as this moisture-producing activity and can further exasperate allergy and asthma symptoms, encourage mould growth and proliferation of dust mites.”

Safety and efficiency as standard

“As well as improving air quality and offering occupants a comfortably warm environment, specifying underfloor heating can also improve home safety. As the system is hidden beneath the floor it eliminates hot pipes and radiators – this is particularly important for young children and the vulnerable who could suffer serious injuries if they came into contact with a scalding hot radiator or fell onto any hard edges.

“Underfloor heating systems can also be fully zoned, which ticks a crucial regulatory box to meet the demands of the incoming Building Regulations and Part L updates. This aspect also ensures no energy is wasted as each zone can be controlled individually from a central thermostat, or even via a smart phone app.

“Another practical aspect is reduced maintenance. Typically, radiators require an annual check for air in the system/bleeding and sometimes a more invasive inhibitor dosing is needed. Typically, radiators are also expected to be replaced every 15 to 20 years – so, once decommissioned, they become a waste product in a relatively short space of time. Whereas underfloor heating systems also require very little maintenance and WMS even offers a 75-year pipework warranty, making it possible for the system to outlive the life of the building itself!”