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Our Spring, 2019 Newsletter is here!

Energy Savings You Can Count On

by Hochstetler Log Homes on 2019-03-01 11:18:42

Energy efficiency and “building green’’ seem to be among the most important considerations in building a home today - especially a log home. And, the cost savings that are the result of careful planning can be substantial. A vital factor in energy costs is how well a home is insulated. Unfortunately, logs were commonly thought to be poor insulators when, in reality, the opposite is true. R-value is the common index for measuring energy-efficiency, especially in a stick-built home, but a better indicator is actual performance in an existing home. R-values for logs typically range from R-.75 to R-1.42 per inch, depending on wood species. So an 8” thick Eastern White Pine log with an R-1.32 should be about R-10.48. However, this is inaccurate since logs utilize “thermal mass.” Thermal mass is simply the wood’s ability to store energy and release it later. What this “delayed” reaction means is a log home stays warmer longer in the winter and cooler longer in the summer. It’s no wonder that log homes are popular where temperatures reach the extremes, like in Alaska or the mountain states. The best of both worlds - or seasons!

The actual effect of thermal mass was illustrated several years ago in a year-long test of ten structures - eight were conventional stick-built and two were log. The well-publicized test was conducted by the National Bureau of Standards in response to growing concerns about the perceived ineffectiveness of logs as a building material. After a year’s time, energy costs were tabulated - and the results were startling. The two log structures consumed 46% less energy in the spring and fall, 24% less in the summer, and virtually the same amount in the winter! The wide variance of temperatures in the spring and fall, with  accompanying benefit of thermal mass, accounts for the substantial energy savings during those seasons. Conversely, the more stable temperatures in the winter reduce the thermal mass affect. This comprehensive study substantiated what log home manufactures and homeowners have known for a long time - log homes are every bit as energy-efficient as conventional, and more often than not, more so.

The log homes of today are much more energy-efficient than those of the past for two major reasons. No. 1: the systems utilize superior technology and No. 2: improved construction techniques. Hochstetler Milling has always been at the forefront in developing energy-efficient systems and the current system is the result of over 28 years in the log and timber business. The evolution of this system is based on practical applications and dedication to the continued pursuit of the ultimate energy-efficient system.

Recently, a Hochstetler log home was tested by an independent heating and air conditioning specialist to determine the size of furnace needed for that specific home. The sophisticated “blower door” test involves a fan which measures the precise amount of air escaping from a specific location. After the home is “pressurized”, escaping air is monitored with the most resistance being the goal - since a substantial amount of air loss would indicate a poorly insulated home. The specialist was shocked to see the first test results and tried again, but the results were about the same. In fact, he even tried a third time but the results remained the same. The actual figure (normalized leakage) was Ln 0.13, which is significantly lower than most conventional, stick-framed homes. Armed with this information, the builder was able to install a smaller furnace and save the homeowner several thousand dollars over the years.

You’ve no doubt heard the frequent real estate saying about the importance of location, location, location. A similar saying about the effectiveness of an energy-efficient system would be gasket, gasket, gasket. As you can see in the illustration, ALL areas where logs are joined are effectively sealed.

Proper installation and placement of the gasket is of utmost importance and a key reason why an experienced, competent log home builder is so important. Also, notice the features and benefits of the log profile itself:

  1. The drip edge, which helps direct water down the wall
  2. The position of the outside tongue moved close to the outside edge to block water from penetrating between the logs
  3. The exclusive tapered sides of each tongue to help the builder stack logs faster
  4. The “boxed heart’ which helps to eliminate through checking

There are many more considerations in planning and building an energy-efficient home and we can assist you. For instance, you can take advantage of a southern exposure by using large roof overhangs, at least 2’, and plenty of windows to lower energy bills. In the summer, when the sun is traveling at its highest arc, the overhang will block the penetrating warm rays; while in the winter, when the sun is lower, the rays will provide comforting warm rays through the windows and help heat your home. An added benefit is the larger overhangs also shield the log’s finish from harmful UV rays, extending the life of the finish. Incidentally, always buy a quality finish. Make sure it is waterproof, yet allows the log to “breathe”, and has a UV inhibitor such as Sikkens Log & Siding.

Much of the heat loss in a home is, literally, through the roof. So it just makes good sense to pay particular attention to that area. Infrared studies have shown the greatest heat loss to be around the rafters where fiberglass or blown-in insulation butts to the wood. Although each is acceptable and less costly than SIPS panels, they are not nearly as effective. Our standard 7-3/8’’ nailbase insulation panels are rated at R-33 and the 9-1/4” panels are R-42. The panels are 4’x8’ and form a continuous “solid blanket” of protection with the seams between the panels positioned directly above the rafters.

The last major energy consideration is your heat source - and the choices are practically endless. Many of today’s homeowners are extremely environmentally-conscious and want to take advantage of nature. In addition, power generated by the sun, wind, and geothermal systems cost much less than that supplied by utilities and fossil fuels, regardless of how efficient they are. By building “green” you are not only being a good neighbor and conserving our resources, you are saving money in the process.

energy savings you can count on


Past Articles

Energy Savings You Can Count On
2019-03-01 11:18:42 by Hochstetler Log Homes

Hochstetler Log Homes' Partners & Suppliers
2018-06-15 15:43:04 by Hochstetler Log Homes

Choosing the Right Log Home Builder
2018-04-14 15:16:16 by Hochstetler Log Homes

Avoiding the Wrong Log Home Builder
2018-03-14 16:36:29 by Hochstetler Log Homes

Choosing the Right Log Home Designer and Manufacturer
2018-02-14 16:59:51 by Hochstetler Log Homes