Celebrating Earth Day in a Timber Frame Home

timber frame home on the shore with reflection in the waterEarth Day is celebrated every year on April 22, which is this Tuesday. Originally Earth Day was to be celebrated on the spring equinox, but it was moved a month later so that students would not be away on spring break or taking finals on Earth Day. Since it was first celebrated in 1970, most of the original activities focused on curtailing major industrial sources of air and water pollution. Today, many activities take a more inward focus to concentrate on what individuals can do around the home to minimize their environmental impact. With that in mind, here are some earth day tips to use around the home. Many of these are simple changes that not only help the environment but also add charm to your home.

Use Reclaimed Materials to Decorate Your House

While an old barn door may no longer have a use outside, it can make a great visual impact inside the timber frame home. After being sanded and re-stained to match your interior, a tracked barn door can be a great way to close off an office or even divide space in a bathroom. This provides great functionality and classic charm, while reusing existing materials.

The owner of this timber frame home in Connecticut used old wooden screens from China to accentuate the headboard. Home Designed by Timberpeg Independent Rep Erich Diller of Evolve Design Group, http://evolvedesigngroup.net/

Another decorating idea is to take old windows inside. While modern exterior windows need to be more energy efficient, there are many beautiful windows that can live a second life inside the home. If you have a stained glass window from an old relative’s home, why not consider using it inside the home to provide light and style to interior spaces?

Use Reclaimed Timbers as Accent Features in your Timber Frame Home

reclaimed barn beam lampAt Timberpeg and Yankee Post and Beam, we are very proud of how energy efficient our homes are. Last week, we discussed recent advances in manufacturing efficient windows; we have previously discussed how our SIP wall construction creates a tight, efficient insulated envelope for your home. While these modern features are necessary for an efficient home, timbers from an old barn home can be used in new construction. Oftentimes, old timber-frame barns are demolished after outliving their usefulness, but the frame is still in very good condition. If you want to use these reclaimed timbers to lessen the impact of your home, then we will happily work with you to realize this choice. Even if building the entire home from reclaimed timbers is not feasible for you, it’s still possible to use old timber as decor, such as this lamp, or as a mantle for your fireplace.

Invest in a Tankless Water Heater

Last fall, we discussed how great strides have been made in the efficiency of furnaces, air conditioners, and washing machines. While upgrading these appliances can indeed greatly reduce your home’s energy and water usage, the first two especially can be major, expensive projects. One way to drastically cut your energy usage with minimal expense is to replace a traditional tank water heater with a tankless model. Not only do these models reduce energy use by around twenty percent, they also eliminate the worry about ever running out of hot water.

 

Compost Food Scraps

Compost can make for a beautiful and healthy garden fit for the country, but just as home in suburbs.

On average, people waste up to a third of all food in the home. Rather than wasting these scraps, start a compost bin. Even if you don’t garden, compost is a great addition to your lawn. While reducing your food waste should be a priority, turning waste into fertilizer for your property is a great, earth-friendly project.

If you’d like to learn more about any of the projects featured here, or learn more on how a timber frame home is an eco-friendly building choice, contact Timberpeg or contact Yankee Post and Beam to learn more.

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Energy Efficient Windows For Your Timber Frame Home

Timber Frame Great Room WindowsTechnology continually advances, as evidenced by the powerful computers that we carry in our pockets (that we sometimes also use as phones) and the radar and optical systems in our cars that can brake before an accident. With all of this relentless progress, the traditional charm of a timber frame home can be quite refreshing. However, while a modern timber frame home can have traditional style, modern advances make the home more inviting and earth-friendly. One example of this trend is found in the windows of a modern timber frame home. While they can look the same as traditional windows, modern technology allows them to be more efficient than windows of the past. Read below on how modern windows achieve this efficiency and also offer convenience not found in the past.

Gas Fills

Originally, windows were composed of only a single pane of glass. This type of window is very inefficient, since heat can readily move from one side of the window to the other through conduction across the large pane. With the advent of double paned windows, the amount of conduction (and thus heat loss or gain through the window) was decreased. This change allowed for windows to become about twice as efficient insulators as they were before, measured by their U-factor. However, filling the space between the glass with a heavier gas than air will increase efficiency further, since heavier gas has poorer convection currents. For a typical half-inch thick window, argon is used and can help increase efficiency by more than ten percent. Krypton is an even better choice but is considerably more expensive, so it is typically only used in thinner windows.

Glazing

timber frame home under construction with new windows

Timber frame home designed by Tom Samyn and Ward D'Elia, Timberframe Design, Inc.

If you have heard a window being referred to as low-E, this is a reference to the glazing on the window glass. Glazings are thin layers of metal or metallic oxides that are deposited onto the glass during manufacturing. They are invisible to the human eye, but reflect heat back away from the surface. This can be useful in both hot and cold climates, but modern glazings are customized for different climates. If you live in a cold climate with more heating than air conditioning needs, then look for windows with a high solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) to use the sun to help with heat in the winter. If you live in a hotter climate where air conditioning is the greater concern, then a low SHGC window will help keep you cool in the summer.

Dynamic Windows

In the past, some windows featured adjustable blinds between the window panes. Although this kept the blinds free of dust, it compromised window efficiency and aesthetics and also was prone to breakage. Modern technology, like electrochromics, can create windows that have built in shades with none of the previous downsides. These technologies rely on an electrical effect to either leave the window clear as normal or provide shade and privacy. When open, they look the same as any other window, and their electronic nature means that they are very reliable while preserving the window’s thermal efficiency.

As you can see the technology going into windows isn’t all that meets the eye.  Many of the greatest advancements are meant to work seamlessly with any style home and function inconspicuously to keep your home energy efficient, safe and private.  If you’d like to learn more about any of the homes featured here, or discuss some of the most popular window choices timber frame homeowners are making, please contact Timberpeg or contact Yankee Post and Beam to learn more.

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Maintaining Good Air Quality in Your Timber Frame Home

great room with stone fireplace and sunroom attachedWhile your home may be your castle, the enclosed space of a home can also present challenges to one’s health. Houses today, especially timber frame homes, are tighter than ever, which is a great thing for sustainable living and lowering energy costs. On the other hand, this tightness presents challenges to maintaining good air quality within the home. Thankfully there are many steps you can take to improve indoor air quality in a timber frame home.  Here are some of the most impactful ways to keep your indoor air clean throughout the seasons.

Install and Maintain an Air Exchanger

Image from http://www.airexchangers.info

The best way to provide fresh air to your house’s interior while maintaining insulation is what is known as a heat or energy recovery ventilator (HRV or ERV), which are commonly called air exchangers. These devices use a heat exchanger to provide fresh air to a home while maintaining the home’s insulation envelope. While these units are ubiquitous in new homes built by Timberpeg and Yankee Post and Beam, older homes can benefit from these systems as well. These systems also have air filters, so you should make sure to clean them seasonally for best results.

Monitor Carbon Monoxide and Radon Levels

weathered unfinished post and beam frame

Rooms with fireplaces, wood stoves, gas stoves or any form of combustion should have a carbon monoxide detector nearby.

Carbon Monoxide is perhaps the most dangerous air contaminant you can have in your home. Since CO is produced by incomplete combustion reactions, make sure that your furnace is in proper working order by having it inspected and maintained regularly. Also make sure that you have carbon monoxide detectors installed as per code (or even beyond code) and test their batteries regularly. Radon is less of an acute health concern, but it causes over 20,000 deaths per year from lung cancer. You should test your home for radon exposure, which typically costs well under $100. If high levels of radon are detected, mitigation costs average only $1200.

Avoid VOCs

Paint can bring a sense of style to a room, and provide the ambiance you crave. But the wrong paint can also bring toxins into your home, so read up before selecing that perfect paint.

Volatile Organic Chemicals, or VOCs, are carbon-based molecules that readily evaporate into the air. Some of these chemicals can cause health concerns. Dichloromethane, for example, is a solvent found in paint strippers that is metabolized by the body into carbon monoxide. This is one reason why products like paint strippers should only be used outdoors or in well ventilated areas. Formaldehyde is a VOC of concern, since it is found in products like paint and carpet. When buying these products, make sure to buy ones labeled Low or No-VOCs. Even when making this selection, you should install these products in spring or fall when you can open the house up to ventilate to allow any potentially remaining VOCs to dissipate.

Keep Indoor Plants

Although plants are known for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, this role has little benefit for inside air quality. However, plants can play a significant role in promoting good air quality by removing harmful VOCs from the air, such as formaldehyde, toluene and others. A NASA study suggested that having one plant per 100 square feet is ideal to help clean the air.  Also, plants can bring a lot of cheer to a home, especially in winter months – just be careful to select the proper plants if you have pets in the home, as some houseplants can be harmful if swallowed.

So, with all these great ways to keep the air fresh and clean in your home, while still getting the great energy saving benefits from living in an efficient timber frame home, what’s not to love about a timber frame home?  If you’re looking to design and build a timber frame home of your own, or you just have questions about any of the topics featured here, please contact Timberpeg or contact Yankee Post and Beam to learn more.

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Building Your Own Fairy-Tale Home

hawk mountain cottage style carriage house home with stone foundation

Carriage House with a "Storybook Feel"

In the past month, we have had posts featuring the Cape Cod and Craftsman home styles. We’ve also talked about how to design functional space in a home for ever-changing future uses. But what if you’re looking for something a bit more whimsical? Even then, a timber framed house is the perfect starting point for building your own, livable version of a fairy-tale house. These homes, like all designed and built by Timberpeg and Yankee Post and Beam, combine excellent energy-efficiency, functionality and charisma. If you are looking to build a home that looks like the setting of modern-day folklore, then here are some design tips to help realize that vision.

Exaggerate the Horizontal and Vertical Dimensions

cottage style yellow home

The 'Harvest Hollow' home from Timberpeg showcases peaked roof-lines and siding to emphasize the vertical lines.

When we think of a fairy-tale house, the first thing that springs to mind is unique exterior proportions. While everyday houses may have more “balanced” proportions, the fairy-tale house will often feature a tall, thin house or short but expansive one. Perhaps a squat, thatched-roof cottage of Hansel and Gretel comes to mind, or an outlandishly tall castle of Cinderella. Exaggerating the vertical or horizontal in your home can go a long way to capturing the enchanted feel.

Even with this departure from normal dimensions, such a house can still be very usable. Our carriage houses, like the one featured at the top of this article, provide a compact, vertical house without sacrificing usability. For a house with a more horizontal exaggeration, consider the Harvest Hollow (above). The low roof-line of this design gives the appearance of a quaint country cottage, disguising its over 3000 feet of living space.

Use Unique Hallways and Doorways

arched front door opening into timber frame great room with balcony above

Arched front door opening into timber frame great room. The arch theme is repeated on the window in the balcony above.

Rectangular doors are certainly the most common choice in home construction, so altering this detail goes a long way to enhancing the storybook charm.

Arched doors and doorways have a quaint charm, and extending this motif to arched hallways inside the home exudes a hand-built aesthetic of an earlier time.

Making these arched passageways a bit lower in height (but still high enough to walk through without crouching!) also builds on the antique charm.

An arched passage from kitchen into the dining room/library adds a little whimsy to this home.

Make the Windows Appear Small

Since glass was much more expensive in the past, windows on older homes were smaller and composed of individual, small panes. In order to lend a fairy-tale vibe to the windows, select ones with many small panes. For an added magical pop, diamond pane windows can transport even an urban house to the enchanted forest.

Anchor Your House in Stone

carriage house home with stone foundationWhile modern materials like concrete are perfect for most home’s foundations, stone detail on your home will tie it firmly with the past.  The look of stone brings an historic tone that can make a home feel anchored in those olden days of legend and fairytale.

Of course when building a new cottage style timber frame home you’ll be able to also enjoy all the modern amenities as well, like superior insulation and energy efficiency.  And unlike truly historic cottages, you can enjoy hot running water, dishwashers, state of the art laundry rooms, and home entertainment systems to bring some magic to your fairytale home.  If you’re interested in learning more about designing a timber frame cottage style home of your own, please contact Timberpeg or contact Yankee Post and Beam to get started.

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