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The Building Method That Results in Self-Heating Homes

Enertia’s Building System uses solid wood walls to replace siding, framing, insulation and paneling. The air flow creates a miniature biosphere.

Photo: Enertia Homes
Sometimes the greatest discoveries happen by accident. Such was the case when Enertia Homes founder Michael Sykes pulled back a tarp laid over a stack of southern yellow pine logs and discovered heat radiating from the pile. Trained as an engineer, this seed of discovery got his gears turning and grew into his revolutionary concept for the self-heating home. Repurposing the notorious “greenhouse effect” that heats the Earth’s atmosphere, the idea is to distribute solar energy in a way that heats the structure itself, as opposed to the air inside, without the need for fuel or electricity.
If this building method sounds amazing, that’s because it is: in 2007 Enertia Homes was the grand prize winner of the Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge. We spoke with Michael to learn more about the utility and possibilities of his designs. 


Log Home Living: What is thermal inertia?

Michael Sykes: When a massive object is warm, it tends to stay warm. The best example is the Earth, itself. Log homes hold heat energy in the logs, not tightly contained air, as in conventional houses. We optimized this by our choice of wood, interior log walls and our convective loop to equalize that heat.


LHL: Your kits are shipped from North Carolina and assembled on site. Once put together, are Enertia homes immediately livable, just like that?

MS: Once the roof is on, and the windows are in place, it will begin to self-heat, so the interior work can continue in comfort. Many do-it-yourself customers move in at that stage and finish the inside as they live there.


 LHL: Your homes are modeled after the Earth’s own biosphere. How is that beneficial?

MS: I wanted everything to happen naturally without fuel, energy or electricity, just like Earth. You can lock the door and leave for years — the house will stay warm on its own.


LHL: Is Enertia’s biomimicry effective in all climates?

MS: It is, because we optimize each house for its latitude, which determines the amount of daytime and nighttime. At high latitudes the winter nights are longer.


 See Also: Is a Maintenance-Free Log Home Possible?


LHL: The homes are built based on a scientific concept. Do they require any atypical upkeep?

MS: No, if you keep the roof intact and the windows intact and clean, it will heat and cool itself forever, with only the normal wood protection a log home needs.


LHL: It seems like your homes are designed to survive a zombie apocalypse. Do they require anything from the outside world?

MS: We got started building homes on islands, so that is where the self-sufficiency came from. The enormous strength is a side effect of the massive use of wood for thermal inertia, and our interlocking connections.


LHL: How customizable are Enertia homes?

MS: I have to have an air path, and the right amount of southern yellow pine in the right places for the climate. Once that is satisfied, I can achieve almost any style, look or size. Unlike conventional homes, the larger the home the more energy efficient it is because more wood equals more energy storage.


 See Also: How Log Home Construction Is Different Than Conventional Building Methods

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