Floor health: how does it contribute to the overall energy consumption of homes?

8 April 2020

We rely upon them to support us and act as a dividing barrier between us and the ground, so it may be no surprise to hear that floor health in your home is important. Floor health addresses a multitude of issues from structural integrity, to a safe surface that is fit for purpose, to comfort and energy efficiency.


Different types of building have differing floor designs. Some buildings have a solid floor laid on the gravel foundations and some use a suspended floor with a cavity between the ground and the floor. Regardless of the type of construction a floor will gain or lose heat to its surroundings depending on the difference in temperature between the inside and outside.


Different types of floor covering serve different purposes with options ranging from lino and carpeting, to sanded and varnished boards. The option you have may depend on legacy choices, budget and preference. Practical concerns can include the ability to maintain a level of cleanliness and this has led to increased popularity of non-carpet solutions over recent years in some applications.


The multitude of factors associated with flooring make the choice and management of a flooring solution a multi-faceted challenge. A typical scenario is a suspended timber floor and carpeting. The suspended design provides the merits of a horizontal surface and managed timber conditions for the floor and carpeting gives a comfortable surface for your rooms. However, such a flooring solution will be associated with heat loss to the surroundings of up to 15% of the total heat loss for your home.


The heat loss can be reduced considerably by the application of a thick layer of thermal insulation on the underside of your floorboards. There are different ways this can be done including installation of close-fitting insulation boards or spraying of an insulation material. Sprayed insulation can result in much lower draughts through the boards and therefore lower heat loss while still managing the timber conditions and moisture in your home. The Energy Saving Trust claim that insulating a floor with the Q-Bot treatment can save around £110 a year in a gas-heated home and £255 a year in an electrically heated home. Click here to read more.


By Professor Peter Childs

The author is Professor Peter Childs FREng, FIMechE, FASME, CEng, PhD, Imperial College London. Peter is the professorial lead in engineering design and founding head of the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London, professor at large for the Innovation Design Engineering programme run jointly by Imperial and the Royal College of Art, and a founder director at Q-Bot Ltd. His areas of interest and expertise include heat transfer, retrofit, sustainability and innovation.