Log homes are a special form of building which has been utilized for centuries. But with all the new technology, insulation, greener building practices, etc., but where do log homes stand? Many times, as builders, we are asked this question. So here is what my research revealed.
Many studies have been conducted which compared log home to a standard construction home. Of course a standard wall has lots of insulation in it. But what about a log? What properties can it offer to insulate our homes from the outside elements?
A log has what is referred to as thermal mass. Thermal mass is the ability of an object to absorb heat or cold and then slowly release it. The log is made with a special cell structure. This cellular structure naturally wants to perform this. Just as a rock is warm after the sun goes down, so our cabins retain that warmth.
A study on this subject, that was conducted in Michigan, USA, I thought was very insightful. One home was log and one was standard construction for this test. It was found that when the temperature outside reached a minimum of 25 degrees Fahrenheit, the log home needed 6 kilowatt house of electricity to maintain an constant 72 degrees F inside the home over a 24 hour time frame.
The standard construction home, on the other hand, needed 8.1 kilowatt hours to maintain the same temperature for the same period of time.
This resulted in a 25% energy savings over just 24 hours. That is outstanding.
Another study done by the Log Home Council found that a typical cabin can be up to 15-18% more energy efficient than a conventional framed home.
Log cabins are capable of excellent energy efficiency, but they must be constructed with high quality craftsmanship. Many log homes tend to have draft problems. That is usually because the logs have shrank and someone needs to go back and fill in the gaps.
With a log construction, this is very true- you either pay now or you pay later. If the home is fairly inexpensive to put together, you will pay for it later in the quantity of caulking you will end up buying.
Precision cuts, finger joinery, full saddle notch corners, and double tongue and groove stack are key to making a cabin weather tight and energy efficient.