‘…Apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?’ Fans of Monty Python’s Life of Brian may well be able to answer this question. In the film, the response is, ‘Brought peace?’ but we could also give another answer: under floor heating.
In fact, under floor heating had been around long before the Romans but, as with so many things, it was the Romans who refined and perfected its implementation through the use of a system known as a hypocaust. Hypocausts utilised a system of raised floors, into which hot air was fed from a furnace, to heat houses, public buildings and baths. Evidence of Roman hypocaust systems can be viewed at the archaeological sites at Corbridge and at Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall.
Similar under floor heating systems are still used today but, as with all heating systems, there are pros and cons associated with them. As the consumer group Which? notes on its website (www.which.co.uk), under floor heating systems are less obtrusive and take up less space than radiators, and they eliminate ‘cold spots’ associated with radiators because they heat an entire room space evenly and consistently.
Additionally, they are flexible as they can be installed in a single room, or a number of rooms, as required.
On the downside, under floor heating systems take a lot longer than radiators to heat up a room, although they can be thermostatically controlled to be ‘on’ constantly and in general usage operate at a lower temperature than conventional radiators. It can also be expensive to retro-fit under floor heating systems in existing buildings.
This, perhaps, makes them best suited to new extensions and new builds. The new heating system can be designed in at the planning stage and can be installed as part of the overall project.