by Mikkie Mills
When you retreat to your log cabin this winter, whether, for a weekend or a month, you want the rustic experience without the freezing temperatures. Depending on your climate, it’s not always easy to heat or cool a log home, especially if it’s older. The last thing that you want to do is waste energy; it can get expensive, and let’s face it, you’d rather reserve your funds for other upgrades to your cabin. Technological innovation is making it increasingly more manageable and affordable to boost home energy efficiency. Here are some tips for cozying your cabin while putting a little more money in your wallet. Consider these upgrades.
Update Your Water Heater
Especially if your cabin is in a colder region, you want to make sure that you can quickly get hot water and plenty of it. If it takes a while for your water to heat when you turn it on, it can waste a significant amount of water and energy. After all, even after shutting off a faucet, water remains in the pipes. The pipes have to push out this cooler water before the heated water can be released. The cause may be a water heater located too far from where the hot water is needed, or it may just be too small to meet your daily demands. Fortunately, there are several high-efficiency options from which to choose; you can consult a retailer such as a water heater company in Lake View Terrace. Ask them whether a tankless, instant water heater might better suit your needs.
Update Your HVAC System
An HVAC system needs to satisfy two requirements for maximum energy efficiency: it must be appropriate for both your climate and your home’s size. If you live in a cooler region, it might be best to opt for a unit with an efficiency rating of at least 90%. If your cabin is in a warmer area, a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio of 15 is ideal. The addition of an air-to-air heat exchanger to your HVAC system will help if you’ve previously sealed your house to air-tight standards. Also, for better indoor air quality, consider adding exhaust fans.
Request an Energy Audit
A home energy audit (aka energy assessment) can examine how efficiently your home uses energy. This analysis will tell you what your total energy use is, and how much energy is being lost, as well as the points from which it’s escaping. The audit will help you prioritize your improvements; which ones need to be addressed right away and which ones can wait. Through the results of thermography and blower door tests, the energy auditor will give you as complete a picture as possible of your home’s energy usage. You can also perform a self-assessment. Although not as detailed, it’ll still give you a good enough idea to develop a schedule of improvements.
Thermography uses infrared cameras (both still and video) to measure energy loss by scanning the home’s surface temperatures. A blower door test examines the air-tightness of the home. It uses a powerful fan attached to an exterior door frame to pull air out of the house. This test determines areas where air leaks back into the structure.
According to the Department of Energy, a large portion of your home energy consumption is space heating — typically about 42%. Cooling, however, only uses around 6%. More energy-efficient log homes are built as weather-tight shells before the interior’s completion. If you’re currently building your log cabin, the ideal time to perform a blower door test is just before the interior work begins. The best way of avoiding leaks is to prevent them in the first place by appropriately building and maintaining the log walls. You should periodically check your sealants and make sure that they’re holding up well. The most common leakage locations are around window frames and door frames. Attics are also common.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a forced-air HVAC system can lose as much as one-fifth of the air through leaks in the ducts. Current energy codes and energy efficiency programs concentrate on distribution losses.
Fortunately, testing the efficiency of your HVAC system is simple. After turning on the heat, check the furthest air register from the HVAC unit. If you don’t feel any of the forced air in that air register, you probably have a duct leak. Sealing and insulating these lines should solve the problem.
Since heat rises, your roof may be the most critical area for insulation upgrades. Check your roof build and amount of insulation in that area. Also, check floors that are above open spaces (e.g., a porch). You need enough insulation under these floors to prevent cold spots. Have someone inspect various areas to determine if your cabin is insulated adequately.
Older windows are the leading cause of energy loss in many homes. Replacing drafty windows with new ENERGY STAR-rated ones can be well worth the investment, lowering energy bills up to 15%. Each window unit displays the U-factor (a window assembly’s heat loss rate; a lower number means better performance). A U-factor of 0.30 or lower is great, but units as low as 0.15 are available. The U-factor will give you a good idea of your windows’ energy efficiency. Double or triple-pane units will offer the maximum efficiency, along with argon-gas filled units and units with low-E coatings. Window technology has advanced significantly in the last 10 years. If you currently have older windows in your cabin, you’ll probably notice a big difference soon after installing new ones.
Instead of a full window replacement, you may want to opt for more affordable storm windows. They may offer a better return on investment in the long run. The extra layer of glass insulates and provides additional protection against air and water seepage.
Solid exterior doors are more energy-efficient than hollow doors. ENERGY STAR-certified metal or fiberglass insulated doors are also available for less than the cost of a wood door.
Investing time and money in some of these retrofits now will pay immediate dividends. Where you’ll really notice savings is over the long run.
Mikkie is a freelance writer from Chicago. She is a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on natural health cures and news, budgeting hacks, and favorite DIY projects. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing her little ones around or can be found rock climbing at her local climbing gym.