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Looking for recommendations, advise, comments for heating & cooling for a log home we'll be building in phases.  Phase 1 will be a tiny cabin - essentially this will be the future master suite but used as a 1 room w/ bathroom cabin until we can build phase 2 of the home (great room, kitchen, loft, another bathroom, 2 more small bedrooms).  We're in the Sierra foothills in California at 4000 ft elevation which means winters get some snow that may stay for a few days and summers do get a dry heat - enough to want some type of air conditioning to stay comfortable.  I'm considering a ventless multi-zone heat pump figuring we can add the other zones when phase 2 is built.  I'm new to this - would that make sense?  Recommendations for other small systems or ones that can grow with the house?  What are the pros & cons with ducted vs. ductless sytems?  Both cost and energy efficiency are factors.  What's your experience anyone?

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Mitsubishi makes an efficient wall mounted heating/cooling solution that will work short term or long term.  Not quite like a hotel/motel unit, but similar concept.  Smaller one initially to fit the cabin.  Maybe placed up high above head height and ultimately replace with a window in phase two.  Or keep and add a second traditional unit in phase two.  I wouldn't buy a large unit now, as the technology, efficiency, cost all can change by the time the main house is built.  

Thanks Chris - I've been seeing some of this on HGTV shows and you may have mentioned it in another one of my posts.  Have you had much experience with these or know of anyone that has?  Just wondering if it's as good as it seems.  I like the idea of keeping it so we'll always have independent control of our temperature in the master suite.  (late response, I've been off-line due to holiday rush)

I wouldn't mention it if I didn't have experience with it. Mitsubishi worked great. Not the only option. Does your building location dictate code required equipment and blower door testing? California in General does, but individual counties may vary.

I'm not sure what the county requires but will look into that.  Glad you like the Mitsubishi, gives me more confidence in that option.

Chris has the right idea especially when your phase 2 time frame is a future consideration. One additional thought would also be the installation of a stand alone propane gas log such as Pro Com. This would be beneficial with colder winter nights. It also could be easily relocated after the phase 2 is completed.

Hi Scott - this sure would add to the aesthetic of the cabin.  I'm always concerned about ventless fireplaces and the odor of propane.  Do you have any experience with these, good or bad?  Appreciate everyone's input for ideas...


I would not put a vent free fireplace in my house.  I have had them in the past, and they throw off a lot of moisture and in smaller areas the odor is more prevalent.  A friend got rid of his because of a sticky film which started to develop on walls and windows etc.  My neighbor who was a fireman said he has seen people suffocated when used in small areas.  These are the questions I would ask before purchasing one. 

I put a direct vent Valor fireplace (Portrait Presidential series) in my other house.  We loved it.  I wish I would have taken it out and brought it with me.  Had the Shefield cast iron surround, built the mantle around it.  They are pricey, but a great looking and functioning heat source, and safe with the direct vent. I don't know if you are close to MD, but I bought mine from St. Paul Mercantile a few years ago and got a great deal from them on it.

If you have an idea of where you might like to have the fireplace, then you could plan where to put the direct vent etc.  They are smaller and zero clearance, and really look very vintage (they also have more modern fireplaces) compared to other companies;

We now heat with a small "Elm" wood stove I have had for 30 years, and a Thelin pellet stove (which I brought with me from the other house), I also have a Hearthstone direct vent LP fireplace in the basement, that I bought from a person  in Boston area, who was getting a larger model, so I got this one for a great price (Tuscon series).

Also, I forgot to mention, we actually did what you are thinking about doing.  We are actually living in our  master bedroom.  I like it so much, that I really am torn about building phase 2.  Ours was a basic small cabin, with bump offs for walk in closet and master bath, and another for an entry foyer , which we use as a small kitchen.  I also put a knee wall upstairs, which gave us another bedroom with full bath (our present bedroom).   Ooops........I missed in your posting that you are in California, so you are not very close to MD.  I am sure there are valor and hearthstone dealers near you.  A small fireplace in the master would be nice.

Ventless fireplace are not new. They are safe and efficient. They can produce water vapor, but fireplaces, wood stoves remove excessive moisture from the air. Yes, I do have experience  personally and professionally. I do have opinions as well as others. If any one has a concern of the failure of a ventless device, then I would suggest they use a heat pump or electric. All natural fossil fuels, oil, propane, natural gas, and wood all off gas and produce carbon monoxide. A vent helps remove BUT the efficiency of gas products are quite reliable . As far as an odor; Usually insignificant but could be noticed. Mercaptan is an additive that is used as an odorant to indicate a leak of gas. That is what can be noticed. Without trying to tell war stories, my background is the Fire Service specifically hazardous materials with a degree in Fire Protection. While someone dying from using a gas product is possible when used in minimal spaces (usually 300 sq ft) the cause of death would be a oxygen deficient atmosphere. The installation of carbon monoxide detectors is a MUST and most IRC codes now require the installation of a dual smoke and carbon detectors in all bedrooms and outside every sleeping areas.

To Shanny's thoughts a vent less is good but costly (so are lives) but the orginal question was  how to be install a product temporally  until a 2nd phase of the construction would then upgrade. Just my opinion!!

I am glad I am retired and done with CFR 49. :)

Sometimes I wish I would just never respond to these things. I should just stayed "holed up" in my little log cabin, and let the experts answer.  What the heck would some hick in a log cabin know anyway?  I like Building Science a lot, and Green Building Adviser (I read a lot of different stuff).  Building Science recommends NEVER installing a vent free gas appliance for a variety of reasons.  Especially if Cynthia is planing on building a small "tight" cabin which can interfere with the combustion.  They could install a leaky window.

Its on page 32 or 38;

I do like the mini splits, or she could do a loop of underfloor radiant and hook it to a small tankless hot water heater for now (and up grade to Polaris Residential Gas Water Heater PG1050-130-2PV or similar later).

Shanny, Sorry if my comments were interpreted as harsh. One thing this forum is good for giving interpretations and viewpoints which sometimes are conflicting and often biased to ones experience or education. It offers information which people with less knowledge can use to make better information.  Here's one as an example. "Green Technology" I have built approx 20 + homes including a log home in the past 8 yrs on a part time career. I have read on LEEDS construction from the Log Home articles and industry publications. It is become increasingly difficult to build an affordable home for a homeowner because of the cost associated. Yes improvements in code requirement are better but some of the changes in the next year or two will make housing unaffordable because of strong green energy pushes. This is just an example of a viewpoint that I have seen. There are probably many on the opposite opinion of the benefits.


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