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How Energy Efficient Are Wood Floors?

Energy prices in the UK have risen significantly since 2010 with the exception of 2013, which saw some very slight reductions in both electricity and gas prices, but overall prices are still incredibly high relative to wages.  Although electricity prices in 2013 dropped slightly in the first quarter, they rose again towards the end of the year.  And while gas prices sustained their reduced price over the year, both of these forms of energy are still a subject of hot political debate and a source of frustration for most households.  In short, we’re all constantly on the lookout for ways to save energy.

Draft-proofing alone makes significant savings

The Energy Saving Trust is the hub of tips and hints when it comes to saving money on energy.  On their website, www.energysavingtrust.org.uk, they encourage everyone to meticulously draft-proof doors, windows, skirting boards and chimneys.  Although the capital cost of this exercise is quoted at being in the region of £200, they reckon there are savings of between £20 and £30 a year to be made simply by draught-proofing.  Add to that, the estimated savings of between £45 and £80 per year that can be saved just by turning off the appliances you leave on standby and you start to see that energy efficiency isn’t all that complicated.

Filling gaps takes time but saves money

What many people ask when they think about the possibility of wood flooring, is how energy efficient this flooring option is.  And the response to that really depends on your subfloor and the wood flooring itself.  But this is really important because  according to the Energy Saving Trust, they reckon that you can easily save around £60-£75 a year just by making sure that wood floors and skirting boards are well insulated.  This is particularly true with old wood floors that have gaps and where there isn’t insulation under suspended wooden floors.

While it is inadvisable to fill every gap in a wooden floor, because the nature of the beast means that it needs space to expand and contract, there is a happy medium when it comes to insulation.  Agreed, you need to make sure that your floor has a sufficient expansion gap all the way round, so it can expand and contract, but there is no need to suffer glaring gaps that allow a gale force wind to blow through, even in ancient wood floors.

When it comes to repairing gaps in old wood floors the best method is to buy a natural resin filler from a DIY shop and mix it with some sawdust from the same colour and species of wood as your floor.  This will mean that the match between the filler and your floor will be perfect.  While this is a rather painstaking job, it’s not a job that requires any particular DIY ability, just a whole lot of patience.  Once the gaps in your floor have been filled, you’ll find that draughts are significantly reduced and your floor becomes more energy efficient.

Making sure your floor is insulated

Insulating your wood floor is another way of significantly increasing its energy efficiency.  If you have a suspended wooden floor in place already, the only way to do this is to lift the floor and lay mineral wool insulation, supported by netting in between the joists.  If you are laying a new wood floor however, for example over a concrete subfloor, you should choose a suitable insulating underlay, unless the room is above a heated room.

Because heat rises, you should only insulate wooden floors on the ground floor of your house, or rooms that are situated over unheated spaces, such as garages.  By insulating your wood floor, you can expect to save anything between £35 and £95 per year, depending on whether your house is detached, semi-detached or terraced and how many floors it has.

Staying cosy under foot

An ideal way of making sure your wood flooring is energy efficient is to install it over an energy efficient, under floor heating system.  If you are planning to really keep your heating bills to a minimum, this is a great way to have both comfort and efficiency.  That said, no matter which room in the home you’re planning to floor over under floor heating, it’s important that you select the right type of wood flooring.

Solid wood flooring isn’t recommended for installation over under floor heating due to the inevitable fluctuation in temperatures caused by this direct form of heat.  When wood heats up and cools down, it expands and contracts.  Although this is completely natural, when it is excessive, it can cause problems, particularly with solid wood flooring.  It’s for this reason that if you have under floor heating, the best solution is engineered wood flooring.  Engineered wood flooring is structured in such a way that it won’t warp or cup even with extreme temperature and moisture fluctuations.  An engineered floor that’s well fitted over under floor heating will be a highly energy efficient solution.

If you’d like to find out more about energy efficient wood flooring, why not get in touch?  The team at Wood and Beyond is perfectly placed to help you make the right decisions for your project and your budget.

Original article date Jan 11, 2013, updated Feb 16 2014.

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