Bright-Minded Home October 2015
Q+A with Jeff Vreeland about his energy-efficient log home
When Jeff Vreeland learned that his Katahdin Cedar Log Home would be naturally superinsulated (page 68), he decided to make it even more efficient with passive solar siting, solar thermal hot water and radiant heat, plus a honeybee colony for good measure. Completed in 2010, the 9,500-square-foot house is one of the largest residential log homes in the state. Before adding solar thermal, they used 4,237 gallons of oil a year. Now the average is 1,138 gallons (or $3,414 per year at $3/ gallon, down from $12,711), for a 73.2 percent reduction in oil usage.
Q: WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF LOG SIDING FOR INSULATION?
A: We found the energy envelope system designed by Katahdin to be superior to traditional frame buildings and other log home suppliers. The R-23 envelope is a sandwich with the traditional log facing outward, a layer of rigid insulation on the interior log wall, and a layer of air space, then strapping and tongue-and-groove cedar interior panels. Another benefit: all the wood was processed from local Aroostook sources, including cedar trees from my own property.
Q: WHAT ABOUT THE SOLAR THERMAL SYSTEM?
A: We have an integrated 13-zone radiant heat system that runs off solar collection and/ or dual high-efficiency oil burners. Along with the passive solar gain and woodstove, we currently rely on the solar thermal for 65 to 70 percent of our heating needs during winter, and 90 percent of our hot water. Thanks to the federal solar tax credits, we anticipate a six-year return on our investment in the solar thermal system, with maintenance costs marginal to nonexistent.
Q: ANYTHING YOU’D DO DIFFERENTLY?
A: The biggest unexpected challenge of the solar thermal system is disposing of excess heat. We should have installed an outdoor pool as a heat sump.
Q: HOW DO THE HONEYBEES MAKE IT THROUGH THE WINTER?
A: We have an enclosure that can be moved on and off with wheels. If need be, I can relo- cate them into the garage, but that’s another challenge. So goes life in the North—you rush in the summers to prepare for each winter. Soundslikethelifeofahoneybee.