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open floor plans & high ceilings


John Dirks Jr
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When you inspect homes that have large open floor plans with high vaulted ceilings you can anticipate that heating and cooling costs could be high for home with such designs. Some plans span large open areas through multiple floors. You can see that the heat is going to rise away from the living areas.

I figure that depending on what type of house they might be moving from, they might be shocked when they get bill for the new house.

Do you mention to your clients design details with regard to the potential of higher utility bills?

I don't think I ever have but I was wondering what other inspectors might say.

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When you inspect homes that have large open floor plans with high vaulted ceilings you can anticipate that heating and cooling costs could be high for home with such designs. Some plans span large open areas through multiple floors. You can see that the heat is going to rise away from the living areas.

Hot air. Not heat.

I figure that depending on what type of house they might be moving from, they might be shocked when they get bill for the new house.

Do you mention to your clients design details with regard to the potential of higher utility bills?

I don't think I ever have but I was wondering what other inspectors might say.

If it's a warm-air system and there's just one air handler and one zone, I'll mention it because I can practically guarantee that the house will be uncomfortable.

On the other hand, if it has in-floor radiant heat, it might be just fine. With those designs, in-floor is really the way to go.

On the third hand, if it's a warm air system with multiple air handlers or multiple zones, there'll be more control and there's at least a chance that the heating & cooling will be more comfortable.

On higher end houses with that configuration, I'm starting to see more sophisticated zone systems with temperature sensors in every room, inflatable bladder dampers in the ducts, and a computer-controlled brain running the show. When these systems work well, they work very, very well.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I agree with Jim, it is entirely dependant on the system and how it handles the air.

An example of one house I built the central room was 80 feet long 40 feet wide and 28 feet to the highest point of the ceiling. The HVAC system has dampered supplies as well as returns. Some of the returns were near the ceiling of the great room The returns would only open in the winter in a heat cycle so the warm air could be heated and cycled.

The system has to be designed for the needs of the environment. If done correctly it should be as efficient as any other home. Then you rely on the insulation of the walls, ceiling, and fenestrations.

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I live in a Taylor Creek Home (google it in Beaver Lumber Cottages). The great room is 17'x12'x22' cathedral ceiling, wide open on one side, which leads tot he Dining rm and Kitchen, also cathdral ceiling. I made the decision to install an Air Source Heat Pump. I have great return system and a cross flow filter. What I realy need now is a humidifier to put some humidity in the air. My floors are red pine and the ceiling are white pine. They suck alll the moisture out of the air. This is my 4th winter. Without the wood stove I would probably be broke. Still working on making it better.

The heating unit works well, what I didnt figure largley into the equation was the amount of windows the facade has. 6 windows cover the whole front. They cover at least 80% of that wall, over 100sqf of glass...They are good windows, but it is glass, R???

Its still cheaper than bunker oil. I wanted to go hyrdonic radiant flooring etc, but there is no one around here, at the time, who does the install.

I would explain this scenario to anyone buying this style home, in this temp zone...

This pic shows a walk-out basement. Which I dont have thankfully.

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tn_201011285152_Taylor%20Creek.jpg

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I typically will mention the value of a good ceiling fan in large vaulted rooms just to keep air moving and mixing.

Awesome home Mongo. I want one...

thanx, not as practicle as I thought, but, it looks great with 12' christmas tree in the great rm.....keep warm

edited: largest ceiling fan on the market is installed,,,next time buy the remote cotrol model arghhh

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Original quote by John D:

Do you mention to your clients design details with regard to the potential of higher utility bills?

I don't think I ever have but I was wondering what other inspectors might say.

I often write up my concerns about questionable design when I suspect them, but in this case, there's too many factors to have a single 'one size fits all' boiler plate.

Thermal stratification in multi story ceilings can really throw a kink in an HVAC designer's calculations but solutions are available.

Just my opinion.

Marc

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two factors that would influence thermal loss in this style.

1. recirculation of air, air exchanger. I have a 10' return at the top of the loft

2. tapestries, I dont have them hanging in the great rm and I bloody well should. Beyond a wood stove thats almost it (I already covered hydronic).

I went to Tapestry Barn but it was to small

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