Log Cabin Heating

Seven Important Facts That You Should Know About Log Cabin Heating

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One of the most common questions we’re asked at log cabin hub is how to heat a log home. Like many facets of your log cabin; this depends upon the size of your cabin, frequency of use, location, climate and aspect.

We know logs are great natural insulators, however, relying upon logs alone will cause you to be very cold during those harsh winters in your log home. In addition, that dream log home can end up costing hundreds of dollars each month to heat as fuel bills increase.

Climate has an important role to play when designing your log homes’ heating, ventilation and air conditioning solution. However, this blog goes beyond chinking, staining and caulking to provide you with the best advice for an energy efficient cabin.

Based on twenty years’ worth experience of living in log homes, read on to discover seven important tips, tricks and facts to keep your log cabin warm all year round.

1. Orientation (South by south-west)

Orientation of a log home
The importance of a south facing garden is well known when buying a traditional bricks and mortar home. This rule holds true when heating a log home too! So don’t forget south facing aspects when designing your new log cabin.

Designing your log home so your windows are south facing will limit the amount of both heating and cooling you will be required to undertake.

South facing cabins can save up to 30% on heating and cooling bills, – Log and Timber Homes Council (National Association of Home Builders).

Whilst the south facing wall of your log home will typically require more maintenance, if it’s exposed to direct UV frequently, this will be offset by the gains in the reduction of energy costs in heating and cooling your log home.

Top-tip

Likewise, windbreaks can also have a great effect on cooling your log home during the summer. A direct northern wind can drastically reduce the temperature of your cabin during the hotter months – providing there aren’t any natural blockers.

2. Log Selection

Log cabin lumber selection
When selecting lumber (i.e. tree type) for your log cabin there are many factors you may consider; appearance, finish, cost, R-value, decay resistance and availability.

One of the most beautiful elements of logs are their exceptional ability to insulate. This is known as “thermal mass”. One important measure of thermal mass is known as an R-value

R-Value

The R-Value is the measurement of resistance of heat flow through a certain thickness of material. The higher the R-value the better because the more thermal resistance the material has and therefore, the better insulator it makes.

Focus on R-Value because the higher the R-Value the better your cabin’s performance will be with heat loss. Due to their thermal mass, logs absorb heat and release it back into a cabin as your cabin cools; radiating heat across your cabin making it more energy efficient.

The two main drivers of R-value for your logs are diameter and lumber type. You can see the R-Value per diameter inch on this chart.

Example

Atlantic White Cedar with a diameter of 10” will have an R-Value of 14.1; this is higher than the R-Value of a conventional bricks and mortar home.

3. Insulation

Log home insulation

The importance of insulation can often be neglected when constructing a log home; making your log home energy efficient can often be just a case of insulating your cabin properly.

It may surprise you, but,
As much as 70% of the heat in your log home can be lost through the roof and the floor.

In addition to reducing heat loss, and ensuring your cabin remains cool throughout the summer months, insulation will aid in reducing your annual heating costs.

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Applying insulation in your log cabin’s roof can reduce annual heating costs by up to 30% each year alone.

Using a moisture membrane, timber batons (to create air flow beneath your cabin) and insulation will drastically improve the energy efficiency of your home; a full guide on insulation for log cabins can be found on our blog.

4. Minimise Air Leakage

Log home air leakage
During the settling process, your log home may become vulnerable to developing air leaks; this will depend upon the type of lumber you use and the construction process. Air leaks are cavities between the lumber as the logs contract or expand.

Typically, kiln dried logs, dried to 19% moisture content and using caulking will help to prevent air leaks during settling, however, any cabin can settle and create air leaks.

You should identify air leaks during your bi-annual cabin maintenance inspection. If the air leakage has deteriorated then sometimes you can feel the draft inside your cabin, common areas for leakages are corners, entrances and cavities around windows and doors.

Once identified, air leaks can easily be remediated using expanding foam.

5. Foundation

Choosing a foundation for your log cabin
Foundation design will typically be something that’s left to your architect or structural engineer.

Sometimes, the best base for your cabin will be contingent upon structural and geographical factors (i.e. rock and soil types), water tables, topography (i.e. site ground) and budget.

However, in addition to safely transferring the load of your cabin into the ground, a good foundation can provide a durable base for great energy efficiency.

Top-tip

Applying insulation between your log home’s floor and foundation can reduce annual heating costs by up to 20%.

Using a moisture membrane, timber batons (to create air flow beneath your cabin) and insulation will drastically improve the energy efficiency of your home; a full guide on insulation for log cabins can be found on our blog.

6. Control that moisture!

Humidity in a log cabin
Trees, by their very nature, are very good at absorbing large amounts of water. In fact, this is essential during their growth phase. Unfortunately, for log home owners, once the log has been dried it can still absorb large volumes of water; this is known as hydroscopic.

If your log cabin absorbs lots of water within a short period of time, this will promote lumber rot, air infiltration and insect infestation.

Whilst lots of factors can influence the moisture content of logs; it’s important during the build phase to make sure the logs are cut, stored and dried properly. Once your cabin has been built, it’s then essential to stain, chink and perform bi-annual maintenance to prevent moisture from attracting mildew, mold, termites and rot.

Top-tip

Remember, moisture-laden air has a propensity to move outside through cracks and cavities in your cabin. A good solution is using ventilation fans in areas prone to high moisture (e.g. bathrooms).

7. Design Prudence

Designing a log home
The design of your log home is a critical component when reducing heat loss and improving energy efficiency. The two most important elements are ceilings and windows.

Ceilings

Interior ceilings have a large role to play when reducing heat loss for your log home.

You will need to make a decision regarding the performance of heat retention and the design of your ceiling.

For example:

  • A cathedral ceiling will look beautiful in your log home, however, it will take a lot more energy to heat and cool as it creates more cubic volume in your log cabin.
  • A tongue and groove flat ceiling will perform incredibly well retaining heat in you log home, however, if won’t be as visually beautiful as a cathedral ceiling.

Windows

Single glazed window panes were typically installed in older log homes. If you’re building a new log home, ensure its fitted with high quality double glazed windows (and doors); this will avoid condensation forming on the inside of your window panes during temperature changes and also improve the energy efficient of your log home.

Top-tip

Double glazed windows can save up to $200 per year in heating and cooling costs.

So, what’s the conclusion then?!

If you want to guarantee a warm and snuggly winter in your log home, follow this seven step checklist:

  • Orientation – remember south by south-west!
  • Log selection – the importance of an R-value
  • Insulation – 70% of heat is lost through the roof and the floor
  • Reduce Air Leakage – use kiln dried logs dried to 19% moisture
  • Foundation – insulating log home’s foundation can reduce annual heating costs by 20%.
  • Moisture Control – stain, chink and maintain your lumber
  • Design Prudence – think ceilings and windows

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