Q. I have thought of building a unique cedar home, but I wonder if the wood provides adequate wall insulation. I like the cedar smell, but perhaps not all the time. Are cedar houses very energy efficient?
A. Cedar homes are very attractive and, although many have unique exterior styling, traditional-looking homes can also be built from cedar. The interiors, with exposed cedar joist and trim, are truly spectacular.
Don't worry about your cedar home smelling like a closet. The aromatic cedar used in closets and furniture is very different from the non-aromatic western red cedar most commonly used in house construction.
With its natural preserving oils, all cedar resists insects, moisture and mildew.
Most cedar houses are sold as complete packages that are delivered to your building site for rapid construction. They range from small bungalows to 4,000 sq. ft. dream houses. With open floor plans, high ceilings, lofts, tall windows, etc., they are ideal for passive solar heating and cooling.
Options: There are many basic design options when selecting a cedar home depending on the styling, efficiency and insulation levels you desire.
Some manufacturers offer a "cedar house" using standard framed walls with just cedar siding. On the other extreme, others use solid cedar logs, inside and out.
Since you are concerned about wall insulation, select one of the cedar house construction methods that provide high levels of insulation hidden inside of the walls. These walls look like solid cedar logs on the exterior, but the center of the wall system is insulated to produce a level more than R-20.
Almost all of the cedar house packages are very energy efficient. Some of the cedar post and beam designs have wall insulation up to R-30, roofs to R-40 and floors to R-28. This creates a comfortable house with year-round low utility bills. By selecting a solar design, the savings can be greater.
Insulation: Even without conventional fiberglass or rigid foam insulation inside the walls, solid cedar logs can still be energy efficient. The heavy logs have tremendous thermal mass that creates an insulating effect. The solid walls are particularly effective during the summer for comfort and low cooling bills.
Laminated cedar logs, three- to five-plies, are often used for stability, cost reduction and material conservation. Some of the larger 6-by-8-inch ones use 1-1/2 inches of rigid foam insulation for the center ply.
For people on a tight budget, there are several "houses that grow" packages specifically designed to be added on to later as your family grows. Most packages include all the materials for walls, floors, roof, windows and doors.
Q. We use a dehumidifier during the summer when it is really humid. It seems to work a lot like a window air conditioner. Will running the dehumidifier help to keep the house cooler too?
A. Your house may feel cooler because of the lower humidity level from running a dehumidifier, but it actually is not. All the electricity the dehumidifier uses ends up as extra heat inside your house.
A dehumidifier does operate much like a window air conditioner, but it does not exhaust the heat outdoors. The savings result from being able to set the central air conditioner thermostat higher because of lower indoor humidity.
XWrite for Update Bulletin No. 476 which gives a list of 14 manufacturers of cedar house packages, seven floor plan layouts and exterior diagrams, construction methods, typical specifications and a construction schedule. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.