The differences between wet and electric underfloor heating

Once thought of as a luxury, underfloor heating is now an increasingly popular heating solution in the UK.

Homeowners, developers and builders alike are embracing it for its space-saving design, energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

There are two types of underfloor heating systems available. Whilst both keep a room – and your toes – warm, there are a number of differences which make them suitable for different projects.

Here at Gaia, we’re industry leading suppliers and installers of both. So, we’ve taken a look at the two different types of underfloor heating, what makes them different and their benefits.

What are the two types of underfloor heating?

All underfloor heating systems produce the same results – radiant heating which warms an entire room from the ground up.

However, the two types of underfloor heating systems work in very different ways:

Wet underfloor heating

Wet – or hydronic – underfloor heating uses a network of flexible pipes which are installed beneath the floor. Hot water is circulated through the pipework to warm the room from the floor upwards.

The pipes are connected to an existing boiler – or a renewable source, such as a heat pump – via a manifold which controls the temperature.

Dry underfloor heating

Dry – or electric – underfloor heating consists of electric heating elements within heating mats or cables which are installed beneath or within flooring. When the electricity is turned on, the heating elements warm up to heat the room.

There are three main types of electric underfloor heating – heating mats, foil heating mats and loose lay heating cables. Each is connected to the mains electricity supply and controlled via a thermostat.

The benefits of both wet and dry underfloor heating

Despite the different ways in which they work, there are a number of similar benefits to both systems.

Unlike a traditional radiator which warms the air closest to it, both wet and dry underfloor heating systems heat the whole of the floor. This produces a more evenly distributed and comfortable warmth.

Both use energy more efficiently than traditional radiators by running at a lower temperature. Without the need for a bulky, metal radiators, they both allow for greater freedom of interior design.

What are the other differences between wet and dry underfloor heating?

There are a number of differences between wet and dry underfloor heating which make them suitable for different projects.

Installation costs

A wet system can be more complex to install than an electric system as it must be attached to an existing boiler. Plus, as wet underfloor heating pipes are typically thicker than electric underfloor heating, more work and floor build-up is required. As a result, installation requires more time and material – and labour costs are likely to be higher.

In contrast, electric underfloor heating is easier to install, especially heating mats which can essentially be rolled out and connected to an existing electricity supply. This process makes them the more affordable system to install in terms of labour costs.

Running costs

Although wet underfloor heating may cost more to install, it is often considered the more cost-effective system to run.

Historically, the lower running costs of wet underfloor heating systems have offset the higher installation costs as the comparable use of gas is cheaper than electricity.

Whilst electric underfloor heating systems have previously been more expensive to run, this may not always be the case.

Electricity is becoming the more favourable power source as we move towards a Net Zero future. It is now increasingly likely that electric underfloor heating will eventually become the more affordable system to run as dependence on electricity increases.

Plus, electric underfloor heating can be connected to renewable sources, like household solar panels, which reduce running costs further.

Project suitability

Whilst it is possible to retrofit a wet underfloor heating system, it is typically better suited to new-build installations.

A wet system requires changes to be made to the floor, such as applying a thick layer of screed which creates a higher floor level. This makes them more suited to projects in which the system can be incorporated into the build.

In contrast, electric systems are suited to both new-build and retrofitting projects alike.

It is generally simpler and quicker to install electric underfloor heating as it can be laid on top of the existing floor with minimal impact on floor height. It is often recommended when renovating just one or two rooms in a home or building.

Room size

Wet underfloor heating systems are suitable for any room size but are particularly effective in larger spaces, especially on the ground floor.

Electric underfloor heating can also be used in any room size on both upper and lower floors. However, this depends on the type of system used as differing products are more appropriate for differing projects.

Electric heating mats are most suited to large and regular-shaped rooms, while electric loose-lay cables are more appropriate for smaller, irregular-shaped and awkward spaces – such as bathrooms and kitchens which have obstacles like toilets and sinks.

We can help you!

Whether wet or dry underfloor heating is most suitable for your project, the system will provide an energy efficient and cost-effective heating solution – and a luxuriously comfortable warmth.

Here at Gaia, we specialise in the design, supply and installation of both wet and dry underfloor heating systems.

We work with architects, contractors, M&E consultants, builders and developers across the UK and Ireland.

As well as our underfloor heating systems, we provide frost protection and ice and snow melting systems which protect buildings and pipes from frost damage in harsh winter conditions.

Whether your project is a residential new-build, a commercial renovation or anything in between, our expert team can advise you on the most suitable system for your project.


Electric Underfloor Heating

We provide a range of electric (dry) underfloor heating systems, including self-adhesive mats, heating cables and decoupling membrane to warm any room.

Wet Underfloor Heating

We supply wet (hydronic) underfloor heating systems from top brands for a wide range of projects.

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