In new log home construction, builders are continuously ad
apting their practices to meet the latest energy code requirements and ensure that the homes they build comply. But what about existing log homes? If you’ve been in your home for five or more years, chances are the energy codes have changed in your area.
This isn’t that big of a deal, unless you are considering a renovation or addition, and then technically you, too, must comply with the current code for the affected area. In a full-log home, adding wall insulation isn’t an option without destroying the beauty of your log walls (and, thanks to the insulating properties of thermal mass, it’s probably not even necessary.) If you want to boost your home’s energy performance, there are a variety of ways to do so and keep your logs intact.
Here are nine of our favorites.
A thermography energy scan shows where a log home’s heat loss is concentrated. By using this visual aid, you can pinpoint problem areas accurately and seal them up.
Okay, so this one isn’t a retrofit per se, but it’s an essential first step, because before you can make your home more energy efficient, you need to know where
you stand. Hire the services of a certified RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) or HERS (Home Energy Rating System) auditor to conduct an energy audit to assess your log home’s performance and pinpoint the areas that need attention. They can do this in a number of ways. One of the most common is a blower door test, which pulls air out of a house with a powerful fan attached to an exterior-door frame, then identifies places where air seeps back inside. Costing roughly $150-300, it’s a simple, low-cost way to determine your home’s air-tightness.
Thermography is another option to measure energy loss, and works by scaning your home’s surface temperatures with infrared video and still cameras. Areas that appear red to purple on the scan indicate where heat is escaping. A thermography scan is typically based
on square footage, but, on average, costs $200-400. For the most accurate results, an auditor may suggest you do it in conjunction with a blower door test. Once you measure your home’s energy-loss hotspots, the findings will help prioritize which upgrades you will need.
According to the DOE, space heating makes up 42 percent of your annual home energy consumption; cooling is 6 percent. If it leaks, that’s money flying right out of the window. New log homes are commonly completed as weather-tight shells before the interior work is done, which is a perfect time to run a blower door test.
Sealing a log home is not much different than preparing any type of house for air tight performance. If you’ve been in your home a while, it’s a good idea to see how your sealants are holding up.
If your log walls were built and maintained properly, the most common places you’ll find leakage are around window and door frames and the attic, if you have one. Of course the best way to treat leaks is to prevent them. The National Association of Home Builders’ Log and Timber Homes Council wrote “The Prevention of Air and Water Infiltration: A Systems Approach” to help. You can download it in the “library” section of its website, loghomes.org.