There’s no getting around the fact: your home needs flooring. You likely want flooring material that’s attractive, comfortable, and sustainably manufactured, but don’t stop there. If you had a green designer, you’d learn that flooring can work for you on another level. In passive solar design, flooring is like a sponge, absorbing heat throughout the day and releasing it slowly at night. This reduces the amount of dollars you put into conventional heating and cooling while increasing your home’s comfort, all without extra maintenance troubles or costs.
So, which flooring options should you look out for? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, concrete, tile, brick, stone, and other masonry options are the most common flooring choices for thermal storage in passive solar buildings. In addition to having high thermal capacity and dark colors and textures that help absorb sunlight, these options are attractive and durable as well. Here’s a little more info on each.
Dense concrete has a high thermal mass, especially when a darker color is selected and additional insulation is added underneath. For an environmentally friendly option, look out for concrete that incorporates fly ash and that has been heated through a dry kiln process.
Concrete can have numerous applications in the modern home. Stained concrete comes in a multitude of color options, while overlays, stencils, and dyes, as well as stamping and finishing, can help make concrete floors a stand-out feature of any room.
A masonry product, tile absorbs heat more so than a material such as wood. One of the more popular flooring options, tile is made from all natural materials. It mimics stone while costing less. In addition, tile can be installed over concrete or other masonry products for added thermal capacity. Select tile in a darker color, and leave the floor uncovered for maximum heat gain.
Brick is a great material for both floors and walls, where they are known to provide more thermal mass than mud-rammed walls. Bricks can be made of mud or ceramic, exuding a sense of warmth and permanence to your home design. Keep in mind that some bricks, such as paving bricks, are denser than others and retain more heat.
More than just a flooring option, natural stone is considered a work art. Heavy and dense, stone provides excellent heat storage. This can be heightened with textured surfaces and dark colors. In addition to providing excellent thermal mass for passive solar homes, stone floors can last a lifetime. It is expensive but comes in more affordable faux stone and stone tile options.