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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Evolution of a Home Design

Initial Proposed Home

At Timberpeg and Yankee Post and Beam, we have a lot of wonderful floor plans that our homebuyers can choose from or use as inspiration. If you would like to build an entirely custom plan, then our designers are all the more happy to work with you to realize your plan. Sometimes, our homebuyers will see a plan or home they like and make some simple modifications to suit their needs. Other times, our customers see a home they like and end up with a completely different home all together!

This is the story of one such project. The homebuyers had originally come looking for modifications to one home design, but after considering their needs and building location, eventually wound up with an entirely different design. Read the story of this build below to see how closely our designers will work with you to make sure your home design is perfect for you and your family.

Initial inspiration home. Home Built by Timberpeg Independent Rep AB & JR Hodgkins - http://www.abjrhodgkins.com/

The initial inspiration for this family was the home you see to the right. Although the home was originally designed for a site near the coast of Maine, the style was just as appropriate a choice for this family’s build site on a windy hilltop in Vermont. The original plan was designed as a retirement home, so the floor plan did not accommodate all the needs for the new homeowner’s children and lifestyle. This customer also had a very different building site than the original home was designed for. The views, direction of the sun and even the grade of the site was different, so it was obvious the original home would not be suitable.

With the shingle style look and the homeowner’s wants and needs in mind, our designers began to create a plan to suit this family’s needs. On the first floor, the master bedroom is located to the east side to take full advantage of the morning light, and the family of book-lovers also added a generous library space. The kitchen, dining and great room were placed in the south of the home for maximum illumination and passive solar gain, with the great room in the southwest corner to take full advantage of evening views. Upstairs, three bedrooms and a shared full bath accommodate the kids.

Barn Style Modification

Although this house would serve the family’s needs well, they decided that it wasn’t quite in order for their home. Firstly, although the shingle style home is very attractive and would work well in many locations in Vermont, the family thought that a barn-inspired home would be a better fit for their site and tie-in with an existing barn that was already on the lot. Secondly, the family wished for a simpler roof structure and housing layout, both to reduce costs and make it easier to install solar panels for hot water and electricity.

Barn Style Modification. Click image to see full plan.

The modified first floor plan of what is now the 'Vermont Hilltop' plan.

With our design team, it was no problem to make these changes. The owners took inspiration from another home, you can see below, which is one of our more popular barn home designs. The new design kept all the rooms the family required on the first floor, including the master bedroom suite and library. However, the homeowners decided that they would rather have the morning light in the library than the master bedroom so these rooms swapped locations. The kitchen was also moved to the southwest side with an added attached screened porch, perfect for enjoying dinner at sunset. The design upstairs remained much the same with three bedrooms and a bathroom, but the sitting area was reconfigured into a more rectangular office space. The end design was wildly different than its starting point, but our designers were able to create the perfect home for the family, while meeting changing style and budget requirements.

The above home's style helped sway the owners from their original ideas on what they wanted, and towards a barn style home. Home built by Timberpeg Independent Rep Berkshire Landmark Builders, http://berkshirelandmark.com/

The story of beginning a home design with one plan in mind, and discovering you really prefer a different layout and look is a common story.  Luckily the design team at Timberpeg and Yankee Post and Beam are adept at guiding people through the process to ensure the finished plan is perfect for you and your building site.  To begin discussing your own home design needs, contact Timberpeg, or contact Yankee Post and Beam today.

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