High fuel costs and economic pressures have prompted more homeowners to ferret out ways to save money on the energy costs associated with their homes. To help, the National Association of Home Builders’ Log Homes Council offers these nine simple ways to reduce energy costs, increase comfort, and make your log home a little greener.
Use Passive Solar. Site the home to take advantage of the sun. In colder climates, a southern exposure for the family room and kitchen is ideal. Rely on existing trees to lower energy costs. When clearing the site for construction, maintain fir trees as a barrier along the cold and windier north and west elevations. Plant or preserve existing deciduous trees along the south and east elevations. The leaves will provide shade in summer and in the winter; the bare trees will let in plenty of sunlight and warmth.
Shop for Energy Star®. Energy Star is a government-backed program helping businesses and consumers protect the environment through energy efficiency. Look for the Energy Star rating on products you buy for your home. The distinctive yellow label gives consumers guidelines for a wide range of components and savings can be significant. When compared to single-pane windows, Energy Star-rated low-E glass with solar shading cuts energy bills by $110 to $400 while increasing comfort, protecting furniture from sun damage, and reducing condensation.
Get Rid of Energy Hogs. Energy Star-rated appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers and vent fans incorporate advanced technologies that use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models—more than making up for the slightly higher costs of these products. Here’s a tip: old refrigerators are energy hogs. Keeping that extra fridge to occasionally store beverages and extra food is wasteful.
Rocky Mountain Log Homes
Pay Attention to Lighting. Compact fluorescents cut energy by 70 percent. Wherever possible install fluorescent fixtures and switch lamps to compact fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs have been improved in terms of ambient color, but if you still have trouble getting used to them, start with utility areas such as the laundry and basement. Combine compact fluorescents with incandescents in bedrooms and living areas. In addition, automatic lighting controls, ranging from outdoor light fixtures with built-in photo sensors to motion detectors to whole-house programmable controls, eliminate waste.
Install a Heat Pump System. For climates with moderate heating and cooling needs, heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners. During the heating season, heat pumps take advantage of the outdoor “heat” and move it into the home. During warm weather, the process is reversed. Because they move rather than generate heat, heat pumps can deliver up to four times the amount of energy they consume. In moderate climates, air source heat pumps use the ambient air. In severe climates, geo-thermal heat pumps, which are more costly, take advantage of the heat below the ground, which remains above 50 degrees.
Pay Attention to Hot Water Use. Consider an on-demand heating system that eliminates the need to keep an 80+-gallon tank of water warm around the clock. In addition to natural gas or propane units that have to be vented or installed on an outside wall, on-demand hot water heating systems are available in electric models that can be installed anywhere.
Focus on Indoor Air Quality. Consider incorporating a HEPA filter into your heating system. A HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration system, removes up to 99.97 percent of small particles—pollutants that standard disposable filters simply do not touch.
Use Energy-Efficient Ceiling Fans. Ceiling fan and light units circulate warm air in the winter and make occupants feel cooler in the summer. Look for Energy Star-rated models, as they are 50 percent more efficient than conventional units. This saves $15-$20 per year on utility bills, to say nothing of the air conditioning and heating savings gained.
Consider Insulated Concrete Forms. ICFs rely on forms made of plastic foam that are lighter and easier to handle than old-fashioned wooden forms. The ICF forms remain in place after the concrete is poured and cured, resulting in an insulated basement that is drier, warmer, and easier to heat—providing extra living space at a minimum cost.