Heating and Cooling Your Log Home
Obviously, our forefathers did not worry too much about heating their log cabins. Big fireplaces had no problem heating up the a couple of rooms they dwelt in. Of course now that log homes are family-sized, we frequently have the impression that there's something different about how they're heated, and the great thing is that a normal system will work too in a log house as a conventional structure.
Just about all log homes are constructed with at least one fireplace. Initially, we believed that our beautiful soapstone woodstove would warm the entire house, and we would use our forced-air propane heat for a backup. Alas, we were wrong. Since we have a cathedral ceiling with a huge loft, the warmth from the stove goes straight upstairs, necessitating two ceiling fans to recirculate the warm air. We anticipated this, but we thought the heat would extend sideways into the remainder of the open floor area (dining area and kitchen). Not on your life! Even sitting on the sofa about 15 feet from the stove, I want a coverlet. I am uncomfortably chilly from the kitchen. I believe that if we had a normal ceiling, the heat may have gone where we expected it, but the loudness of the cathedral ceiling pulled off our calculations. Additionally, the soapstone stove is intended to be run 24/7, and because we both work for a living, the stove does not get fired up until the day. This woodstove has to be warmed up slowly in the chance of cracking the rock, so by the time it's actually cooking we are ready for bed.
Old-fashioned fireplaces traditionally squeezed all of the warm air from the room, but contemporary designs are more effective at recirculating the heat. The most energy-efficient fireplace is constructed in the middle of the home, so the pile heat isn't lost to the exterior. Outside stacks can create back drafts if the flame is extinguished, making a new fire more challenging to light. If you're planning several bedrooms, putting two of these back-to-back (facing adjoining rooms) will provide you the chance to build 1 chimney with two flues. Or you may place a fireplace over your furnace, again permitting two flues at precisely the exact same chimney. A direct-vent fireplace will remove the chimney, but you will have to determine how to conceal the port on the exterior wall. Or, if you use a wood-stove, you can run the pipe through the wall and directly up the exterior, creating a box around the pipe to simulate a chimney. Based on the appearance you want, you might choose to leave the pipe within the area and send it through the roof. This will give more warmth.
It is a fantastic idea to think about your heating and air conditioning needs early in the design phase. Although log houses are naturally energy-efficient, it is not smart to skimp on your system. You may have the ability to heat your entire house with a massive fireplace or wood stove, but the township will likely have minimal standards to fulfill before they issue a construction permit. Additionally, you want to think about resale value. I know of one person who attempted to market a million-dollar handcrafted log home with no furnace, and as you might suspect, the purchaser never came along. The home was listed as unfinished, and installing the heating system after the fact was too daunting a job. A similar problem exists if you try to get away without central ac. Yes, log houses do remain cooler in the summer, but these"dog days" of August can provide you a totally miserable night's sleep, and a prospective buyer will most likely not be as tolerant as the first owner. Really, our mortgage company wouldn't consider granting a construction loan if we did not include central ac.
If you would like to conserve ductwork space, you may use forced air heat, using the identical ductwork serving the air conditioner. Propane or oil are normally the fuels of choice in rural areas. If your inside space is limited, there are businesses that specialize in very little, high-grade duct systems which fit into tight angles; those systems usually require a much higher initial installation price. When using conventional ductwork, you need to maintain the angles at a minimum, so it will help to design first floor walls which will conveniently carry the air directly up to the next floor. An open floor plan provides a challenge, since you must remember that the upstairs rooms will need to be heated and you'll need both supply and return vents to make an efficient air flow. If you would like to use whole log interior walls, you will need to find another way to run the ductwork, electrical, and plumbing. We made that mistake, and there aren't enough return ports in our bedroom. The air is stuffy in the summertime, even with all the windows open.
Where do the vents move? Since our exterior walls are complete log, a number of our vents were put in the ground. If your inside walls are sheetrock or tongue-and-groove, you can place the vents where they normally go. 1 thing I wish we'd done was go over the plan with the HVAC contractor, since he put the vents in areas I found most inconvenient. Some times it can be helped, and some times it can not.
If you're energy-minded and want to leave your thermostat at a minimum, you'll discover that the southern-facing side of this log home will be warmer than the northern exposure. Since sunlight will sink closer to the horizon on a winter day, it is advantageous to organize your big windows facing south; throughout the summertime, the sun will cross over the roof, so it won't overheat your home. However, you might realize that the northern side of your house - that will not get direct sunlight at all - could be markedly cooler. The ideal solution would be to put in radiant-floor heating (if you can afford it). Although this system demands a boiler rather than a furnace, the in-floor heating spreads the heat evenly throughout your house, eliminating the northern-facing blues. With radiant-floor heatingsystem, you will need to keep the thermostat stable constantly; the machine isn't intended to be turned down when you go to work.
Additionally, you may use the boiler to heat your hot water also, eliminating the need for a hot-water heater. On the other hand, you will still have to install ductwork for the air conditioning.
Overall, the very same considerations apply as in routine structure. We believed we could get by with just 1 zone of heating and cooling, but in retrospect, two zones could have solved a great deal of problems. In the long term, it is cheaper to do it properly in the first location. Retrofitting a log home isn't going to be a breeze!