The Log Blog by Appalachian Log Structures

What's New in Heating and Cooling Technologies for Log Homes

Posted on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 04:01 PM

log home solarFrom a recent post on the Log Home Council's Web page - another great and timely article that is relevant and informative.

New advancements in heating and cooling will enable you breath easy while spending less on energy. Here’s a primer on the plethora of choices for your new log or timber home.

Wouldn’t it be great if new homes came with stickers on the windows that predicted its energy performance, just like today’s automobiles? This would come in handy, especially in this era of higher fuel costs. Then too, our expectations of comfort have changed drastically in recent years. Today we not only want to be perfectly cozy whether it’s frigid or scorching outside, we want our indoor air to be clean and germ-free, with just a kiss of humidity.

Fortunately all this is achievable in your new log and timber home, provided you create a heating and cooling strategy long before you build, advises experts with the Log and Timber Homes Council.

It’s important to think of your home as a total system. Today’s modern log and timber homes can be built to be super energy efficient. That’s why one has to approach heating and cooling strategy on a whole-home basis. Rather than just cobble together a furnace, water heater and air conditioner after the home is built, one has to plan a comprehensive strategy of how the home will operate if you value your comfort and energy costs.

Start With Where Will You Be Building?
A log and timber home in the Southwest desert will need a far different heating and cooling strategy than one set along the coast of Maine. Is your area prone to power outages, wind or snow storms? Your local climate will influence the design of your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.

Site Orientation
Simply orientating your home properly on the building site can reduce your energy bill by up to 30 percent, say the experts at the Log and Timber Homes Council, part of the National Association of Home Builders. Although it is best to face windows directly south, it can be oriented up to 30 degrees away from due south and lose only five percent of the energy savings.

Design Do’s & Don’ts
The volume of space can affect your heating needs, as can the number of windows and doors. Cathedral ceilings, in particular, take more energy to heat and cool since it creates more volume.

What’s Overhead
A home’s biggest culprit in energy loss is the roof. At issue is insulation and how effective it is. Discuss with your log and timber home producer how your roof will be configured, its cost and how it will affect the home’s energy performance.

Power Up
Your selection in HVAC system will be influence by fuel and its costs. Natural gas is the predominate fuel in the West, fuel oil is common in the Northeast and propane is often used in areas when one can’t easily access either. If you’re building site is located far from the power grid, you’ll likely have to employ alternative technologies, such as wind and solar power.

The Benefits of Thermal Mass
Logs are an excellent insulating material, thanks to thermal mass. Log walls collect and store energy, then radiate it back. One can increase energy efficiency by adding more thermal mass—upgrading the diameter of your logs or installing tile floors in front of south-facing windows. Today’s modern log and timber homes can be built to be 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than a conventional home.

Choices in Windows
To help keep your home cool in summer and warm in winter, window manufacturers offer “low-e” coatings that block ultraviolet rays. Compare performance with U-value ratings, which range from 1.20 to .20. The lower the number, the better the energy performance. In cold climates, a U-value of .3 to .5 is worth the extra you’ll pay for it.

Be Cool
Recently the Department of Energy (DOE) raised the minimum Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for central air conditioners and heat pumps by 30 percent, from 10 to 13 SEER. You’ll pay from $400 to $1,200 more for the 13 SEER. However, the good news is it will pay for itself in energy savings in 10 years. Other air conditioning options include ceiling and attic fans, and evaporative coolers (also known as swamp coolers). The latter is only used in low humidity environments.

The Heat Is On
Here’s a rundown on your heating options:

  • Forced Air Furnaces: Powered by either propane or natural gas, these units deliver warm air through floor registers. Compare performance with the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating, a yellow tag on the side of the unit. Least efficient 78 AFUE; most efficient 98.6 AFUE. Builders recommend a 90 AFUE or greater. Pro: They are inexpensive and most contractors are familiar with installation. Plus, they can be paired with air cleaning systems, including filters, ultraviolet lights, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, to kill germs and airborne bacteria Con: They’re noisy and offer poor comfort because of temperature variations within the home.
  • High Velocity Forced Air: Air delivered to a room enters at a higher velocity (typically 2,000 ft/sec), creating better comfort. Pro: The ultra quiet, two-inch insulated tubes can be installed nearly anywhere. Plus, these systems cost less than conventional forced air. Con: Not all HVAC contractors have experience installing them.
  • Radiant Heat: Hot water radiators were the first example of this. But now the concept has been updated to in-floor units, a system that offers unparalleled comfort and energy efficiency. Pro: It minimizes heat loss by keeping heat at floor level. Plus, the boilers can also provide your hot water needs. Con: It’s slow response time for temperature changes make it impractical for infrequently visited vacation homes (which can be mitigated with Internet-enabled controls).
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps: Ground-source heat pumps use the earth or groundwater as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. Pro: Energy is inexhaustible and it’s energy efficient. Con: Requires a significant parcel of land for underground excavation.
  • Hearth Products: A toasty fire on a winter’s night goes together like butter and popcorn. Pro: Factory made units are certified as clean burning. Plus, a plethora of fuels are available; firewood, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, electricity, corn and wood pellets. Con: Are impractical as a primary heat source.
  • Combo Systems: Experts recommend combining two or more systems to provide the ultimate in comfort. Mike at Seven North, for example, often recommends a radiant heat system on the basement level, with a high velocity forced air system for the upper floors, which can deliver both heat and air conditioning for summer months.

Air Quality Control
Since log and timber homes can be super tight, experts recommend a triple approach to maintain healthy indoor air.
1) Air-to-Air Exchangers: These mechanical units, which attach to a forced air system, regulate indoor air quality by drawing in fresh air and ejecting stale air. Plus, they transfer 70 to 80 percent of the heat .
2) Humidifiers: Indoor air humidity in the winter can drop to as low as five percent, drying out your skin, lips and respiratory system not to mention damaging your home. A whole house humidifier is the solution, which range in cost from $400 to $800.
3) Ventilation Fans: Bathrooms equipped with motion activated or humidity sensitive controls exhaust steam from showers and unwelcome odors.

Instant Hot Water
Today’s gas or electric storage tank water heaters are becoming much more energy efficient. Another option can be tankless hot water heaters, which produce hot water on demand. Tankless units are available in propane (LP), natural gas, or electric models. They come in a variety of sizes for different applications, such as a whole-house water heater, a hot water source for a remote bathroom or hot tub.

Light Up For Less
Energy efficient lighting fixtures can now be found at most home centers (look for the Energy Star label). These can significantly save you money in direct lighting costs, as well as in cooling needs in the summer (lighting fixtures produce heat).

Going Green
If you’re looking to tread super light on the planet with your new home, you have more options than ever. What’s more, many states are offering tax incentives to those who opt for these alternative technologies. They include

  • Wind Power: A new generation of wind turbines can allow you to meet most of your electrical needs. Pro: If you’re on the grid, you can sell excess energy back to the power company. Con: Some consider them unsightly, which could be a problem in areas governed by covenants, including resorts or subdivision developments.
  • Active Solar PV systems
  • Wind Power
  • Geothermal
  • Fuel Cells

Home Energy Costs
Just where does the average $1,400 each homeowner spends on energy go every year? Approximately 45 percent goes to heating and cooling costs; 11 percent for water heater; 10 percent for washer and dryer, seven percent for lighting, six percent for refrigerator, two percent for dishwasher, two percent for computers, two percent for TV/DVD/VCR. The remaining 15 percent can be attributed to appliances that use electricity even when they’re “off.”

Appropriate Appliances
When buying an appliance, remember that it has two price tags: what you pay to take it home and what you pay for the energy and water it uses. Everything from refrigerators and computers to freezers and TVs now comes with an energy rating, detailing how much it will cost to operate annually. Energy Star-rated appliances can save you anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your energy bill.

Home Sense & Science
To create a healthy and comfortable indoor environment is a science. The addition or subtraction of one method can affect the home’s system as a whole—sometimes adversely. Members of the Log and Timber Homes Council can provide an analysis of what’s right for your local climate and give you advice on how to get the most bang for your buck.

Thank you Log Homes Council (LHC) for another GREAT article to share.  Be sure to visit the Log Home Council's web page (www.loghomes.org) to learn more about this and other relevant topics.

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Tags: log cabin home, log and timber home, dream log cabin, custom log home, log and timber homes, log and timber products, log cabin

Energy Performance of Log Homes

Posted on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 @ 12:40 PM

custom log homeA lot has been written about the energy efficiency of log homes.  When discussing this topic with those "non-believer's", I usually ask them the square footage of their home, how high the ceilings are in their home and what types of energy they use to power their home.

After determining all of this and then comparing the costs to my own log cabin home, they are quite surprised at the differences between the energy costs of the two homes. You see, you can read, calculate, research and argue this topic for a good long while however the proof is in the monthly power bill. My home continually out performs my next door neighbors who live in conventional built homes with 8' or 9' tall ceilings.

Thanks to the physical characteristics of logs, when you build your new log home you can watch your energy bills go down, which really adds up. Log homes are able to achieve excellent energy efficiency, thanks to “thermal mass,” a natural property in the logs that helps keep inside temperatures comfortable in all seasons. This enables log homes to stay
cool in summer and warm in winter. Indeed, in studies by the Department of Energy and performed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, log homes were found to outperform other forms of construction. Read all about it in the Log Home Council's white paper, The Energy Performance of Log Homes.

Although a very technical paper it does provide some insight in to the "thermal mass" phenomenon that is really at the heart of the topic. It's this mass that gives the log home the energy efficiency that they are known for. Our forefathers understood the energy efficiency of log structures. That's one of the reasons why so many were built.

When you are ready to begin your new energy efficient, dream log home, be sure to contact your nearest Log Home Building Consultant to assist you. We're here to help when you're ready to start.

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Tags: log cabin home, dream log home, log and timber home, dream log cabin, dream log cabin home

We're MORE Than a Producer of Log Homes!

Posted on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 @ 12:42 PM

home with log sidingMost people think of Appalachian Log Structures as a producer of log cabin homes, but we're SO much more than that.

In the past few years there has been a resurgence of remodel, repair and restoration of existing homes and log homes. In addition, there has been an increasing interest in hybrid homes which are those structures built using different building techniques like log walls with timber frame roof components or a conventional frame home with timber frame accents.

As a mill that produces wood items, we've been busy making these types of products (not necessarily log walls) for just such projects for years.

Recently we had a client interested in using some of our timber frame materials for his conventional framed house. They liked the look of the heavy timbers for the 2nd floor framing as well as the exposed heavy timber rafters and tongue and groove in the roof and dormers of the home even though they were not building a log home. In addition, they also like the heavy timber look for the exterior porches. Our porch railings were used on the wrap around porches to finish off the project and tie all of the wood features, both inside and out, together. It's a wonderful combination of both conventional framing and timber framing. Visit our facebook page to view a photo album of this "hybrid home".

Along with some considerations of placing timber framing on a conventional frame structure, the builder also had to be in on the design to make sure that a good understanding on how certain construction techniques would be accomplished when marrying these two construction types together. Good communication and understanding is key when building not only a hybrid home, but any type of construction project.

We've also milled custom log siding profiles for some clients who had a certain look they were going for. In addition there are folks who have had log siding on their home for years and are now putting an addition on to their existing home. They don't know where the original siding came from so they brought a piece to us and we custom cut their siding for them.

How about a custom log profile? In 2012 some high winds in Virginia did some damage to a cedar log cabin home. Not only was it a profile/shape that was unusual, but they needed it in Western Red Cedar species to match the rest of the house. With the dimensions and a sketch of the existing log profile, we purchased the Western Red Cedar raw materials and custom milled the logs for their repair job.

So although not everyone may be looking for a log home, if you are looking for wood components in your new (or existing) home consider Appalachian Log Structures as a resource for your project. We offer structural as well as decorative beams/rafters/timbers, exterior and interior log siding as well as log siding corners. If you are looking for a smaller log to use for a storage shed, camping cabin, man room, hobby room or a back yard get-a-way we also produce a 3"x7" Sportsman log. Need some hardware to put your timber framing together? Give us a call - we may have what you need in stock.

If you need a finish for your exterior wood items we offer a line of water or oil based products in addition to additives that help repel carpenter bees and other insects as well as a mildewcide additive.

Trim lumber, board & batten and various other wood products are also offered and all it takes is a quick phone call to your Local Log Home Building Consultant or a visit to our website www.applog.com to find out more. To help you get started, click here to view our Component Price list that will show you just a few of the items we do everyday!

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Tags: dream log home, log and timber home, dream log cabin, borate pressue treatment, dream log cabin home, build a log cabin

16 Secrets of Affordable Log Home Design!

Posted on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 @ 12:10 PM

affordable log homeYou Can Create Your Dream Home for Less!

It’s a rare these days to hear the phrase “money is no object.” No matter what your net worth, chances are you’re interested in making smart investments—and getting the biggest bang for your buck. Building a log home is no exception.

Designers and builders can offer dozens of ways to cut costs. This can be called value engineering. Working with the pros, like Appalachian Log Structures, that belong to the Log Homes Council will help you decide where you want to save money—and where you shouldn’t skimp. (Opting for cheaper windows and insulation isn’t usually recommended.) Here are 16 tips from Appalachian Log Structures and the Log Homes Council.

1. Use Proven Design
Instead of a custom design, opt for a stock plan from a log home producer’s catalog. Stock designs have been built many times before, so construction errors have been eliminated. When you opt for a stock plan, you’re getting all engineered and cost efficiencies built into that design. This strategy will save you both time and money.

2. Think Rectangular
Whether stock or custom, a rectangular design is the most economical shape to build. Add more than four corners and you’ll add more costs. For example, it takes 18 feet of logs to create a single Traditional corner with an eight-foot wall height. More corners, equals more coin.

3. Open Flexible Floor Plan
How much house do you really need? Keep square footage down with an open floor plan that eliminates unnecessary hallways. Look for innovative ways to use traditionally wasted space. Our favorite trick: adding a closet or built-in shelves under a staircase.

4. Trim Your Width
Keep your home’s width under 30 feet. Once you go over 30 or 32 feet, you have to beef up your support beams substantially. The longer the logs, the more they cost.

5. Think Long Term
So you’re envisioning a log home, guest house for the in-laws and perhaps some out buildings to house your hobbies and toys? But in this economic climate, you are concerned about affording the full tab? The solution is to plan your construction over several years, which will give you some financial wiggle room. Start by building the log home the first year, followed by the wraparound porch in Year 2 and the garage with breezeway in Year 3. Add out buildings, such as a guesthouse or barn, in subsequent years.

6. Clearing Land
As much as 35 percent of your budget will go to clearing your home site, excavating a foundation, creating a driveway and installing utilities. These are fixed infrastructure costs that simply can’t be avoided. However, you can save on this portion of the work by performing some of it yourself, or hiring workers and supervising their efforts. Get started by clearing the land. Save any materials you can re-purpose during construction, as well as saving lumber for firewood.

7. Full Basement
A full basement with roughed-in plumbing and electrical lines is one of the most affordable ways to add extra living space to your log home. If you can afford it another 20% in concrete costs, add 10-foot high sidewalls to add volume to a space that can seem closed in.

8. Stacked Baths
Putting two bathrooms back to back—or above and below in a two-story design—will reduce your plumbing contractors work, which can save you substantially.

9. Mix & Match Exterior Finishes
To save money, you can opt to incorporate a variety of exterior materials such as stone, board and batten, cedar shake and even stucco. These materials can add character to the home and actually accent the logs.

10. Driveway Strategy
From a privacy perspective, locating your home far off the main road may be appealing. But you could save thousands in grading and compacting if you keep the driveway short. You can also delay your driveway installation for a few years. That time allows the soil to settle, so you’ll end up with a more stable driveway with fewer repairs over time.

11. Simple Roof Line
Keep your roof simple with a single ridgeline instead of “hips and valleys” or multiple roof planes. Extreme angles, such as turrets or an angled prow under an A-frame, cost more in materials and labor.

12. Ceiling Height
If you worship cathedral ceilings, go ahead and enjoy them one in your great room. But keep the ceiling height in other rooms lower (in the 8-foot realm). Not only will you save on construction costs, but lower ceilings make your home easier to heat and cool.

13. Opt for Conventional Roof System
It can be quite expensive to put large, structural timbers with tongue-and-groove decking overhead in the great room. To save money, use a conventional truss or rafter roof system in the attic, with smaller, decorative timbers and non-structural tongue-and-groove decking. You’ll reduce your costs by a third without sacrificing aesthetic appeal.

14. Consider Solar Tubes
If you can afford dramatic skylights, go for it. But also consider solar tubes. They bring in natural light and cut down on installation and materials costs. They also make a great addition to master closets. Bonus: many of these modern money-savers also have venting capabilities for a breath of fresh air.

15. Hunt for Bargains on Appliances
If you’re craving an epicurean range but can’t stomach the price, check out “scratch and dent” sales centers run by manufacturers and retailers. New units are usually half price—a sweet savings for a few nicks you’ll hardly notice when it’s installed in a brand new log home.

16. What Hasn’t Worked in the Past? Now’s the Time to Fix It!
Often it’s the little things (extra lighting in the master closet, a quiet exhaust fan in the bathroom, or a computer workstation in the kitchen) that make life easier and more convenient. Think about what hasn’t worked in your past homes—along with how and where you want to spend time in your new one. Then invest a little more money in the spaces that mean the most to you.

When you're ready to start your building project please contact your Local Log Home Building Consultant to help you with these and other GREAT money saving ideas in the design of your dream log home.

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Parts of this article were taken from the Log Home Council's website www.loghomes.org.

Tags: log home, log homes, log cabin home, log and timber home

Part 4 of 4 - Log Homes are Better than Conventional Built Homes

Posted on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 @ 12:53 PM

log home interior

Beyond a steady stream of visitors seeking to soak up some rustic ambiance and connect with Mother Nature, there are other advantages for owning a log home over more conventional construction. Longtime homeowners say log and timber homes offer rich rewards over the stick and brick homes of their neighbors.  Here are 3 more advantages...

10) The Eyes Have It
If you’re worried about mold, mildew or insect infestation, then a log home offers clear advantages since you’ll be able to see anything untoward, just by taking a stroll around your home and visually inspecting the logs. This quick detection leads to a less costly remedy. In contrast to a conventional home, the sealed wall cavities can be a hidden refuge for mold, mildew and insect infestation, which can cause far more damage before its detected.

11) Superior Craftsmanship
Conventional custom homes can have their fair share of beautiful carpentry, but this is typically limited to trim and millwork. In log homes, examples of fine craftsmanship are at every turn, in the handcrafted staircase with its branch-like spindles and balustrade, in the hand-scribed large timbers overhead in the cathedral ceiling, in the one-of-a-kind light fixtures.

12) Peace & Quiet
Log homes are often quieter than stick built homes, thanks to the same thermal mass that provides energy efficiency and the sound deadening affects of wood walls, according to a white paper produced by the National Association of Home Builders Log Homes Council. “The acoustical benefits of a log wall, therefore, are the reduced transmission provided by its solid mass and the sound deflection provided by the profile of the log (the angle, shape, and texture of the log surface),” the paper concludes.

 

This article is reprinted from a Log Home Council webpage.

Tags: log home, log and timber home, logs, thermal mass, wood walls, Log Homes Council