How To Build An Energy-Efficient Log Cabin Home
By Karen Doss Bowman Posted 11/21/2011
Southland Log Homes
As energy costs skyrocket nationwide, homeowners are thinking about how to save money before their homes are even built. While log homes have natural “green” properties, there are steps you can take to maximize energy efficiency. It all starts with developing a tight design, says Thad Marcom, president of Strongwood Log Homes in Waupaca, Wisconsin, a company that recently built two log homes that are both Wisconsin Energy-Star® certified and designated as a Green Built Home by the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative.
“It starts with making sure the log system is designed correctly to maximize efficiency,” Marcom says. “And that translates into making sure your builders follow through with the plan.… The design and building techniques both have to be good.”
The key to maximum energy efficiency is simple, says Craig Seider, director of design services at Expedition Log Homes in Oostburg, Wisconsin: “Seal, seal, seal! A house needs to be well sealed and well insulated.”
We asked our experts to offer their suggestions for building an energy-efficient log home. Here are some of their tips.
Understand R-Value and Thermal Mass
R-value refers to the ability of a material, such as insulation or logs, to resist heat flow. The species of wood selected, as well as its diameter, and the insulation products used will all affect the R-value.
Even so, “R-value is not the full story behind energy efficiency,” says Jeremy Bertrand, national sales manager of Log Homes of America in Jefferson, North Carolina, and former executive director of the Log Homes Council at the National Association of Home Builders. “Thermal mass is really the key for determining energy efficiency in a log home.”
Thermal mass refers to the heat-storing capability of the logs. During cooler months, Bertrand explains, the sun will heat up the logs and they will hold in that heat, keeping the home warm inside. During summer months, the wood keeps the temperature consistent inside the house because very little heat is transferred through the solid log.
Adds Expedition’s Seider: “Achieving a good R-value in a home really has to be a combination of all the parts as a whole. High-performance windows and doors, good roof insulation, and good foundation insulation all contribute to the overall performance of the home.”
True North Log Homes
Control Air Infiltration
“The biggest culprit of energy efficiency is air infiltration,” Bertrand says. As you research log home companies and builders, look for experts who are experienced in sealing up the home to prevent air leakage. The type of logs used, as well as the manufacturer’s method for drying the logs can make a difference. Look for species and techniques that reduce shrinkage, along with professionals who take advantage of technology’s advances in sealants (caulking and chinking) to achieve the best possible seal on full-log walls.
And don’t forget the roof, says Michael Grant, owner of Barna Log Homes of Georgia in Ellijay. “A log home, like most homes, will lose most of its energy through the roof if it’s not well insulated,” he says.
Part 2 of How To Build An Energy-Efficient Log Cabin Home will be available late November 2011.