How to Find and Trace an Underfloor Heating Pipeline

How to Find and Trace an Underfloor Heating Pipeline

Table of content
- How does underfloor heating work?
- Types of floor heating pipes
- How to find and trace a heating pipeline hidden in the floor
- Likely scenarios that people need to locate an underfloor heating pipe


Underfloor heating technology is one of the most popularly endorsed technologies, especially in Europe, to keep homes at cozy temperatures in all weathers. This technology is not only cleaner, greener, and resource-friendly, but also a smart move that is lighter on pockets and helpful in conserving our reserves. According to a strategic study, it is shown that this market will grow to USD 7 to 8 billion by 2027. But why are people choosing this strategy? This is because this cutting-edge advancement is making use of simple radiation phenomena to keep home or commercial areas at normal temperatures without endangering the lives of people. Also, it has a long life-cycle with low maintenance and high efficiency. This technology aids in decreasing bills and preserving natural resources.

How Does Underfloor Heating Work?

Underfloor heating works by distribution of heat from high temperatures to low temperatures unless a uniform temperature is achieved throughout the floor using pipes. This mechanism is highly popular because it warms up the floor and the various furniture/equipment placed on the floor. Simple scientific instruments like thermostats, pipes (metallic or plastic), monitors, actuators and meters are systemically integrated to form a consistent system.

There are two types of underfloor heating; Electrical (dry system) and Hydronic (wet system). Both have their pros and cons and both are almost equally popular among the masses. The wet system uses the water running in pipes to distribute the heat, while the dry system uses electrical energy to heat up the floor and ultimately the room. You can also install a hybrid system using both electrical and wet systems for multiple-storey buildings. 

types of underfloor heating

Heating pipes are an integral part of this system. Without them, heat cannot be transmitted. The evolution of heating pipes has increased the efficiency of this system, thus making it more reliable and adoptable. But with great advantages, comes great responsibility and management to cater the pipes and their overall accessories. In this article we will emphasize the types, locating and tracing of heating pipes.

Types of Floor Heating Pipes

These are the three most used types of pipes for the UHF network and are mentioned below.

1. Polyethylene (PB)

a). High thermal coefficient, thus not suitable for dry systems
b). Pipe creaking and noise can be experienced while contractions/expansions
c). Mostly used in wet systems as screed grips the pipes
d). Not widely used now (discontinued in Europe and America)

2. Cross Linked Polyethylene Pipe (PE-X)

a). High thermal coefficient, thus not suitable for dry systems
b). Heart of all wet systems (extensively used in Europe and America)
c). Easy installation
d).Can handle high temperatures up to 95oC
e). Greater tolerance than PB at high temperatures and pressures

3. Polyethylene raised temperatures (PE-RT)

a). Similar to PE-X but it is not cross linked
b). Flexible and not very stiff
c). It cannot handle high temperatures like PE-X
d). Usually compatible PE-X accessories / installations
e). Acceptable in America (widely used in Europe)

4. Multilayer PE-X/AL/PE-X Pipe

a). Easy to install
b). Highest flexibility
c). Suitable for screed or dry floor systems
d). Stable while handling
e). Small linear expansions are thus noiseless, while contractions/expansions
f). Particularly suited for “dry systems”

5. Metallic Mesh or Mat (For dry system)

For electrical systems, electrical mats or mesh are used instead of PE pipes to regulate the heat throughout the room.

How To Find and Trace a Heating Pipeline Hidden in the Floor

When you’ve installed an underfloor heating mechanism in your house you may need to locate the pipes for various reasons. This may include damping in certain areas, uneven heating, and leakages from the pipes, house or room renovation, installation of any other equipment in the room. In such scenarios, you would prefer to know the exact locations of the pipes. You would never want that while drilling or renovating the pipes in the heating systems gets damaged.

Locating or finding the exact position becomes imperative in such scenarios and can be carried out using qualified staff and technicians. This will also involve using some specialized devices to increase the accuracy percentage while detecting pipes.

Let us discuss some of the most common practices for locating the underfloor heating pipes.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)

One of the most commonly and widely relied on methods used for detecting underlying heating pipes is using GPR. This method, often regarded as the most economical and highly reliable, is deployed to detect both metallic / non-metallic pipes. Hence, this method is highly versatile as it can be equally used for both wet and dry systems.

In this method, a GPR antenna is usually placed near the surface. The antenna acts as a sender and receiver of the ultra-wide band pulses or rays. The pulses are continuously sent and the time and strength of the receiving rays is detected and recorded. This pattern of receiving pulses is then fed to a tablet or PC to show the real-time analysis. Sophisticated programs are used to interpret the incoming data which precisely tells the location and type of the pipes.  

This method is highly accurate and requires experienced staff, surveyors, technicians and technical programs to clearly represent the final output to a layman.

GPR System components

  • Transmitter and Receiver Unit
  • Antenna
  • Control Unit 
  • Display Device

gpr locator

Thermal Imaging/ Infrared Thermographic System

As the name suggests, this technique involves taking “thermal pictures” of the floor while the heating system is turned on for a while. These thermal images accurately represent the location of the pipes and its whole network. The pipes are depicted as hot blazing regions in the photographs. Highly specialized thermal imaging cameras are used by various companies which offer this service. These cameras are able to detect the slightest of temperature variations and can precisely provide exceptional results. These images are then fed to special instruments and show the exact locations and patterns of the pipes. The areas having temperatures higher than the average temperature of a room (usually 18oC) are finely represented in the images.

Thermal Imaging can be used to view the newly installed system, tracing problematic areas in the existing system, locating the water leakages in the wet system, outlining the distance between the pipes, verifying the consistency of the installed system with a designed system and identifying extremities of temperature in case of any malfunction.

Thermal Imaging system components

  • A thermal imaging camera
  • A display device with integrated software

Metal Detectors

This method is used when metal pipes are used for heating mechanisms. Metal detectors detect the locations of the metal and produce a beep sound which enables the identifier to locate the pipes. This method is deployed in dry systems where wired mesh or mat is used to distribute the heat throughout the system. This method cannot be used in the case​of plastic pipes as metal detectors can only detect the metallic parts. This method is not very accurate, and is usually used to find approximate positions.

Likely Scenarios That People Need To Locate An Underfloor Heating Pipe

The possible scenarios where you would like to find the underfloor heating pipes could include the following mentioned points.

Identify any leakage

If your existing system has any leakage, then identifying the exact route of pipe is imperative to critically pinpoint the leakage position and isolate it from the rest of the system. The faulty part can then be repaired and leakage can be fixed. 


If you would like to renovate your house, the need to know the hidden piping system becomes necessary. Under no circumstances, you would like to damage the existing system and lead to any serious problem. A map showing all the piping positions will help the renovators to crucially manage the work and avoid any mishap. 

Installation of any equipment on the floor

If you would like to install any electrical equipment like printers, machines or standing HVAC Units, you would need the mapping of the buried piping system to avoid any accident. A drawing showing the existing system would be beneficial in such a scenario. 

Uneven or unsatisfactory heating

After the installation of UHF, if the results are not as per the expectations, you would require the initial drawing of pipes to apply contingency analysis. 

Damping of floor in various areas

In a wet system, if you notice damping of certain areas of floor in your home, this might point to the leakage of pipes. To correctly pinpoint the faulty pipe, mapping of pipes is a vital component to starting working. 

Faulty or damaged pipes

If you experience any kind of defect in the overall heating mechanism of the house, the urge to find a defective part would be the first step. The fault could be in any equipment like thermostat, actuator, pipes, folds or boiler. To determine the flawed part, again mapping of pipes will be helpful to see if the defect lies in the pipes or not.

Damage due to construction work

While any constructions work, damage to the underfloor heating system can happen. If you have a pre-plan depicting the exact location of each component, you can easily segregate the fault and can fix the system later on. 

Incorrect system installation

If you have a new system installed in your house, you would definitely require the technical staff to recheck the reliability and uniformity of the system. Rechecking after the installation can assure high consistency and durability of the whole system. Usually, the companies that install the UHF prefer a recheck of the whole system to build their credibility and trust. 

Uneven floor or lumps in the floor

If you notice any unidentified lump or bump on the floor, you should definitely call the repair or maintenance team. This may indicate any slip in the system. The repair squad will opt to carry out the tracing of pipes as the first step to identify the cause behind the bump. 

Maintenance of heating system

A scheduled maintenance of the underfloor heating system will also require the mapping drawing of pipes. This will help in conserving the whole system and increasing its life expectancy.

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