If you are shopping for new flooring, you might be wondering about the impact of that purchase on your home’s overall energy efficiency. Your flooring choice can help keep your home comfortable all year round.
The most insulative flooring option is carpet, as it holds in warm air. Hardwood is also a great option for energy efficiency, offering warmth in the winter and cooling in the summer. If you opt for vinyl or laminate, an energy-efficient underlay will help insulate your home.
This post outlines various options for flooring when insulation and energy efficiency is critical. Read on for information about various options for improving your home’s insulation with flooring, how you can find out the manufacturer’s rating for various flooring types, and additional tips for basement flooring.
If you are looking for flooring that provides good insulation, you will want to evaluate the flooring’s R-value or its thermal resistance. This is a number assigned to each type of flooring that indicates its thickness, density, and ability to hold in heat. The higher the R-value, the better the flooring will insulate your home.
Below are the average R-values of flooring types you might be considering:
- Wool carpet: 1.575 to 2.1
- Engineered wood: 0.25 to 0.75
- Oak: 0.638
- Ash: 0.75
- Maple: 0.75
- Pine: 0.975
- Fir: 0.9
- Cork: 1.125
- Marble: 0.4
- Laminate: 0.5
- Vinyl: 0.2
- Linoleum: 0.4
- Ceramic tile: 0.25
Consider the Type of Insulation and Underlay
Whatever flooring you choose, you should also consider the type of insulation and underlay you are choosing. These two elements can considerably improve the overall insulation of your floors. The type of underlay you choose will depend on what flooring you select.
The best types of underlays for various flooring types are:
- Hardwood – cork or foam
- Carpet – foam or sponge rubber
- Vinyl – foam or compressed fiber
- Laminate – cork or foam
Selecting one of the above types of underlays will help improve the insulation of your flooring.
The Most Insulative Flooring Options
As mentioned previously, carpet provides the best overall flooring insulation. The carpet fibers coupled with the insulative underlay that is laid down below create a layer of warmth on your floors. Carpet carries the highest R-values of any flooring option, helping you save energy and money on your power bill.
Benefits of carpet:
- Best thermal insulation
- Best energy efficiency
- Helps hold in warm air
A higher pile carpet will trap more air and will create better insulation than a low pile carpet. Carpet flooring can increase your home’s energy efficiency up to 13 percent, so it is the best option when energy efficiency is a priority.
While laminate or linoleum flooring alone may not provide the highest level of insulation for your floors, using a foam underlay can help save energy and add thickness.
Most laminate and linoleum floors will require some type of underlay, so you can examine the combined energy efficiency of both the underlay and the flooring itself.
Most vinyl planks and tiles come with built-in padding, which can significantly increase energy efficiency and insulation. If you opt for vinyl flooring that includes padding, this will eliminate the need for an additional underlay.
If you are seeking additional insulation, you may opt to combine your vinyl flooring with a good quality underlay in order to achieve this. You will have to choose carefully though, as some underlay materials can cause vinyl flooring to become unstable.
This affects the level of thickness of the material you can choose, and ultimately limits the overall insulation of the flooring, as compared to other options.
Most hardwoods are considered to be “warm,” generally with better insulator properties than vinyl, linoleum, or laminate flooring. While there are many low-cost laminate and vinyl options that are designed to look like real wood, if insulation and energy efficiency is a priority, real hardwood is a better option.
Benefits and features of hardwood:
- Combines energy efficiency, durability, and easy maintenance
- Can improve energy efficiency and insulation by filling in gaps
Hardwood is known for helping regulate your home’s overall temperature. Wood absorbs heat, so it can not only help keep your home warm in the winter, but it can also keep your home cool in the summer. While carpet might be the best insulator in the wintertime, hardwood provides better energy efficiency year-round.
Engineered wood, made from plywood with a thin layer of real hardwood on top, is also a good option for insulation. Engineered wood is typically installed with an underlay, which helps add an insulative layer.
Like hardwood, cork provides good energy efficiency in both the summer and winter months. Installing cork flooring can help you save money on power and stay cozy in the winter.
If you do not like the look of cork flooring, but want the insulation properties, cork underlays can be used for vinyl, laminate, or even hardwood flooring.
The types of tile you might be considering for your home include:
While you may be considering tile flooring just for your kitchen, bathroom, or mudroom, know that there is a wide variety in the type of material you can use when it comes to tile. There is also a wide variation in the amount of insulation each type of tile offers.
Stone and tile are great options for warmer climates, as they both reflect heat rather than absorbing it, as carpet and wood do. If you live in a hot climate, stone or tile flooring can help you save power, but may not be the best option for colder climates.
Radiant heating is an energy-efficient way to help keep your home warm. If you are considering the best flooring for insulation, you may want to consider installing radiant heating as well. These systems efficiently heat the lower portion of the room, with less heat lost as it rises.
These systems can be installed under several different types of flooring, including:
- Porcelain and ceramic tile
- Engineered wood
Radiant flooring is expensive, so remember that you can also install it in just a portion of your home, such as a bathroom, and still reap some of the energy-saving benefits.
What Is the Best Flooring for Insulating Basements?
While some homeowners opt to simply seal their concrete basement floors, this is not a great option in terms of insulation. If you are looking for the best flooring to insulate a basement, there are a few options to consider.
While you can use the carpet for warmth and insulation in a basement, you may want to consider more waterproof options, which include:
- Engineered wood
These are affordable options for basement flooring and work well over concrete.
While there is a wide range of options to choose from when selecting flooring for your home, the best choices for insulation are typically carpet and hardwood. Carpet provides the most warmth and is generally an affordable option.
Hardwood, while often more expensive, performs well in climates with temperature fluctuations, staying cool in summer and providing warmth in winter. You can add area rugs for additional warmth and insulation.
When paired with an energy-efficient underlay, laminate flooring can also be a cost-effective option for insulation and energy savings, although it typically does not perform quite as well as carpet or hardwood.