The cost to heat and cool a home is the lion’s share of a utility bill. Whether you use natural gas, electricity, or propane, the comfort factor is offset by uncomfortable utility bills. Timber frame homes, wrapped in energy efficient insulated panels, offer relief from high utility bills.
While we do take other steps to keep our power usage at a minimum (we use fluorescent lights throughout and all of our appliances are Energy Star rated), we believe that the tight, well-insulated envelope that encloses our home is key in keeping our utilities in check.
We live in a timber frame home in the mountains of North Carolina. We’re told that the past winter was the coldest in 35 years and that the past summer was one of the hottest on record.
Our HVAC system is a fully electric heat pump. We use propane for cooking and for our tankless hot water heater only. We have more windows than most homes and have high ceilings throughout. In theory, our costs to heat and cool should be above average. But…we spend a fraction of the cost of homes of comparable size. The latest reports indicate that our home uses one third (that’s One Third) of the electricity of a similar home in our area.
Our power bills for the last 24 months are shown in this report…
Many people ask if vaulted ceilings will result in higher energy usage. I have to say that we spend much less on heating and cooling than we did when we lived in a conventionally built home of the same size. And that home had 8′ ceilings throughout. Goshen Timber Frames clients have seen similar costs savings in their own timber frame homes.
So, when you plan your new home, remember that these energy savings will continue to save you money each month and will save you even more money as energy costs rise. I know that the proof is in the savings.
When we built our timber frame home, we made every effort to work with reclaimed, recycled, reused, repurposed, and re-just about anything materials. It was important that our home felt old while living new.
One of the choices we made was to buy a washer-dryer combination that was energy efficient and let us put clothes in to wash and take them out (of the same machine) dry and ready to fold or hang. There were several models on the market and we decided that the LG unit would serve us best. Except…there wasn’t one new unit to be found. The older model was off the market and the new one wasn’t yet available.
So we searched for a gently used unit that would not only let us know if we really could live with a washer/dryer combination that took 3 hours to wash a dry a load of clothes, but would also save us money. Craig’s List came to the rescue and a short trip to Atlanta landed us just the right piece of laundry equipment. Since our timber frame featured lots of gently used items, this wasn’t a problem for us.
Now, we thought we were onto something unique and new. We couldn’t find anyone who had used one that wasn’t a smaller apartment or RV sized unit (which didn’t rate very well). We loved the concept of no washer to dryer switch (and no moldy smelling clothes if we forgot to switch them).
And today, we still love our washer-dryer. It serves us well and fits well into the laundry closet we designed into our home. Timber frames allow for lots of flexibility in room placement, so our laundry space is tucked off of a hallway, accessible to the bedroom and bath.
And now, the surprise for us. We think we have the latest technology and love showing off our “easy” washer/dryer.
I’m looking through some old magazines (really old …1956) and find an ad for a Philco Duomatic. Surprise…it’s a washer/dryer combination and sold for a whopping $369.95. Who knew? So while we aren’t dismayed, we were a little shocked that it never took the market by storm. Maybe it was before it’s time. Most people didn’t have dryers in 1956 (at least in my neighborhood).
So old is new again in our timber frame home. And we are loving it. Washing, drying, now if someone will just invent a machine that folds clothes. We would be “cooking with gas”….but that’s another story.
So, plan your home, build it, and fill it with things you love and that you’ll use and enjoy.
And that’s enough for now.
See you soon, Bonnie Pickartz.
As David and I designed our timber frame home, we wanted to think forward to a time in our lives when we might not want to climb up the stairs to our bedroom…or maybe when we could no longer make that trip. However, it was important to us that we kept the footprint small, so building up rather than out was the best option. So we worked with our designers to make sure that the first floor would be accessible if we happened to be wheelchair bound.
Making the hallway (all five feet of it) wider than required and all of the doorways 34″ or greater meant that we could get around with ease. Open spaces in timber frame homes offer opportunities to move furniture and create flexible spaces that will change as needed. The exterior doors are wide and it would be no problem to add a ramp if needed.
With my wonderful clawfoot bathtub replaced with a walk-in (or roll-in shower), we would be good to go. Life would go on, uninterrupted by lack of access.
This concept will allow us to age gracefully in our home…a nice nod to a future we can’t control. If we are still going up the stairs at 99, so be it. But if we can’t make that trip at 69, we’re ready for that, too.
While talking about accessibility may not be your idea of a good time, it is important to consider it when designing your new home. Timber frame plans adapt easily to wider halls (since halls are typically minimal or non-existent) and open spaces. So have a heart to heart talk with your timber frame designer or architect and consider aging in place an important part of your design process.
And…come visit us.
We’ll leave the door open for you.
Later, Bonnie Pickartz
Summer brings to mind not only warm evenings and flowers, but the cost to cool a home. Timber frames are uniquely qualified to withstand the onslaught of summer heat because by the nature of the design, the ductwork is inside the building envelope. If you consider that just something to work around as you design your timber frame home, you’ve missed a very important point.
Timber frames are typically enclosed in an insulated envelope. That necessitates having all the ducts and plumbing inside a conditioned space. Doing just this is really a “best practice”, but timber frames do it naturally. The importance means lower cooling costs and less loss of cool air to the heat. If ducts reside in an unconditioned attic, the loss is compounded by the superheated air that accumulates in the attic. The air conditioning unit works harder to produce less cool air. In warmer climates, this is a significant loss.
In cooler climates, the reverse is true. If the ducts are run through an unconditioned attic, the heat is sucked away from the warm air before it can get to the rooms it is meant to heat.
An excellent article on the Energy Vanguard Blog makes the case for getting the ducts out of the attic. They linked to an article by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory “Ducts in the attic? What were they thinking?” that offers statistics and real numbers that impact the comfort of a home and the energy used.
So why am I saying all of this. Because it’s a problem that timber frame homeowners don’t have to deal with…ever. The ducts are inside the conditioned shell in timber frames. The way it should be done is the way it’s done in a timber frame.
So, as our energy bills languish (our running tally for the past twelve months is $1026 to heat/cool and supply electricity to all lights and appliances), we once more get to offer yet another reason why timber frames are sustainable and energy efficient.
Building a timber frame home is simply the best choice. And when you build remember to Build Boldly.
The heat of summer arrived early this year. With temperatures soaring to the 90’s, we’re seeing days as hot as we’d expect in August. But it seems timber frames with insulated panels are a good place to be when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
We haven’t had to turn on the air conditioning yet at our house. The nights are cool, so we open the windows and sleep in the cool night air. Then, in the morning we close the windows before it gets hot and we head off to work. The house holds the cool, so when we come home late in the afternoon, with the temperatures hovering around 90, inside is fresh and cool. We turn on the fans and are comfortable until it’s time to open the windows again.
Timber frames are energy efficient. That’s a fact. Most people who build them insulate them well and are concerned about sustainability. Structural insulated panels (ours are R-24 wall and R-40 roof polyurethane panels) make saving energy easy.
So it’s summer time and the living is easy…in our timber frame.
In case you couldn’t tell it, at Goshen Timber Frames, we live and breathe timber frames. Most days are consumed by all things timber frame, not a bad way to live, I’d say. To that end, we’ve added a “chat now” button to the Goshen website.
This allows us to visit with some of the more than 7,000 people who come to our website each month to look at plans, read the educational articles, check out the photos…or just to hang out.
If you happen to stop by, chat me up, say “hello”. If I’m not available, then I’m visiting with someone who called or someone who came into the office to talk timber frames in person, so drop me an email. I’m all about communication.
So, stop on by and browse awhile (that’s why they are called “browsers”) and take time to say “hey”. If you have a question, I might have the right answer. If not, I’ll get it for you and send it your way.
So…until we chat…I with you a wonderful month of May.
Later, Bonnie Pickartz
The structural advantage of timber frames has been substantiated in the centuries old buildings worldwide. Wood, when joined by craftsmen using old and time tested techniques, is a forgiving and enduring material.
Wooden buildings centuries of years old are still used daily around the world. We visited a chocolate shop in France and were far more interested in the joinery than in the chocolates (but we did enjoy them). Seeing the timbers that have sustained through hundreds of years of use and even abuse was rewarding. We celebrated not only the chocolate, but the historic building.
To think that the structures that we are building today will be visited with awe and that they will serve as inspiration for new buildings centuries from now is humbling. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the beauty and drama of a timber frame, but the structure is really the most important element.
So, if you live in a timber frame, celebrate the structure. If you don’t live in a timber frame home, you might want to join this celebration…it will go on for centuries.
Another of Goshen Timber Frames “Educate Yourself” Webinars will be presented on May 20th. Contact Bonnie Pickartz at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Building a timber frame home is an adventure, a challenge, and at the end of the day, a reward. John and Janice have taken it very seriously. They’ve built their own home, working early and late, a labor of love. And they blogged it along the way.
And the reward is near. Their home is almost finished and their love of timber frames shows, along with their artistry and talent. So, today we share with you Building Our Timber Frame – The Suttons . They’ve shown us all how there is beauty, character, and space in a small timber frame home.
Each person or couple will ultimately decide how involved they will be in the process of building their own timber frame home. Some will be up to their elbows in it, drilling, painting, hammering, and cleaning up. Others will watch from a distance, none the less involved and enjoying. Some will be somewhere in the middle, doing the work they are comfortable with and leaving the rest to others.
Soon, very soon, they will be living in their new home. They’ll marvel at the beauty of their timber frame and will smile as they walk up to the door each day. So check out their blog and get to know them. They have not only built the home of their dreams…they have enjoyed the process.
If you’d like to visit the Sutton’s new home, contact Bonnie Pickartz at 828-524-8662.
And when you build…build boldly.