After years of seemingly being forgotten, barndominiums are back in style. It feels like there are new articles every day discussing construction tips and trips, but few answer what is perhaps the most crucial question of all: how much does it cost to heat a barndominium?
The cost of heating a barndominium can range from $3,500 to $35,000. These expenses depend on three factors: the size of the structure, the heating method utilized, and whether there’s any need for weatherization. The annual heating expenses can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
In this article, I’ll be taking a look at the different ways you can heat a barndominium (or barndo). I’ll also suggest the steps you can take to keep your heating costs low. So let’s get to it!
Rising energy costs for homeowners are commonly featured in news reports. Whether it’s NPR discussing higher energy costs in America or Reuters explaining Europe’s climbing heating prices, growing energy bills are a problem worldwide. To combat this, more time and resources are being spent on building homes that are energy efficient.
Barndos are eco-friendly because they start as repurposed barn spaces. Moreover, as Arch Foundation explains, barndos are usually made with steel and metal siding, which, in turn, can be recycled (or are the result of recycling). And, as Stevens points out, metal and steel are ideal for energy efficiency.
That being said, building your barndo to get the most out of your energy costs requires more than using the proper construction materials. For example, while metal and steel are great for heat retention, they still require weatherization. So, while the right materials are an excellent place to start, you’ll still need to weatherize to get the most out of them.
The Department of Energy describes weatherization as appropriately ventilating, insulating, sealing, and controlling moisture in your home. All of these steps control energy costs by giving you better control of how heat enters or escapes your home, and they can help you better protect the inside from mold, mildew, and other natural health hazards.
Weatherizing a barndo is really no different from weatherizing a traditional house. Ultimately, you need to inspect the structure closely to identify areas where heat could escape and treat them appropriately. Here are some specific steps for you to follow:
- Check the structure for any gaps. Look closely at joints, studs, and anywhere where two pieces of the structure meet. You can use caulk to seal these gaps, which will help keep heat in and keep moisture out.
- Next, take a close look at your plumbing. Like in the last step, you’ll want to inspect where pipes meet for leaks (this may require you to run water through the system first). You can use caulk around plumbing fixtures to prevent leaks.
- Be sure to check around your doors and windows for escaping air. You can physically feel it or use a thermal leak detector. Once again, a caulking gun can seal those cracks.
- Finally, you can add insulation to your walls and the inside of your roof. How you do this depends on the type of insulation you opt for (more on that below), but the goal is near complete coverage before you complete your walls and ceiling.
BobVila.com lists ten different types of insulation that are used in home construction. However, not every option is viable for a barndo. Additionally, the differences in the structure of a typical house and a barndominium limit your options somewhat.
The best types of insulation for barndominiums are easily molded or cut. Rigid panels can be used but will take extra work to fit properly. However, the following types will work well with the typical barndominium structure.
Roll insulation is the least expensive option available. As the name suggests, these are rolls whose lengths are usually multiples of 10 that are unrolled and cut to fit between beams. Roll insulation is traditionally made with fiberglass but comes in other varieties, such as natural fibers.
Batt insulation is very similar to the roll variety but is sold in large blocks instead of rolls. Again, batt is traditionally made with fiberglass. Both batt and roll insulation require nails or heavy-duty staples to secure in place.
Bubble insulation is unique in that it’s usually, but not always, used in tandem with another type of insulation. It controls interior temperatures by reflecting outside heat and holding inside heat when used as an outer layer or alone. Radiant Barrier USA specifically mentions that this type of insulation is helpful for metal pole barns.
Finally, spray-in foam insulation is a liquid compound that hardens and expands into a foam. Installers can use it to fill cracks in their walls in addition to creating the insulating layer. However, since it’s sold as a liquid, it’s harder to tell how much you may need compared to physical options, and you might have to pay more as a result.
Wondering if your barndominium needs sheathing? The answer isn’t as straightforward as many think. Learn more by clicking the link.
Noticeably absent from our list is blow-in insulation. It’s usually a mixture of loose recycled materials that you spray into horizontal spaces, like attics, but it is also sometimes used in walls. It’s perhaps the cheapest insulation on the market, but it’s not ideal for barndos for two reasons.
First, it’s challenging to get in a vertical space, like a wall, and still achieve complete coverage, which insulation needs to do if it’s going to work properly. It can take years to settle into place. Its ability to insulate improves as it settles, but because it can take so long, you have to make due in the meantime.
Regardless of which type you choose, you should leave the installation up to a professional. Besides ensuring complete coverage, they can secure the insulation properly without damaging your walls.
With insulation out of the way, it’s time to settle on how you want to heat your barndo. The choices available are essentially the same as those for a traditional house, but with the metal siding, you’ll experience better heat retention and get more for less. So what you need to do is hone in on the heating options that will save you the most money.
Your best choice is to install a heat pump system. It works by extracting warm air from the ground and sending it through your HVAC system. It will pull warm air from your home in the summer, cooling it down.
As the New York Times points out, heat pumps work no matter where you live, so they’re an excellent choice for any barndo. In terms of cost, you’ll only pay for equipment and installation since the device doesn’t use fuel. Heat pumps are also one of the greenest heating options.
You may be tempted to choose a wood stove or fireplace for your barndo. Both are inexpensive and complement the rustic look so many barndo owners are after. However, while they’re both affordable, neither one will effectively heat your home since they don’t connect to any vents.
However, they make an excellent secondary heat source for rooms where a large number of people gather or where a lot of time is spent. Just keep in mind that they need regular cleaning, especially as you use them more often in the winter.
Radiant heating systems are those that utilize water to generate heat within a system of pipes, spreading it throughout the building. They’re great because they stay hidden while doing their work. The downside, though, is that they usually need to be installed during construction, not after.
That said, barndos built on concrete can make the most use of radiant heating systems. A concrete floor will radiate heat incredibly well, even if covered. Radiant heating systems don’t require heating ducts, either, so you can save additional money that way.
Traditional furnaces will have no problem heating a barndo (assuming you have ducts in place, of course). However, they are usually the most expensive option, regardless of whether you choose gas or electric. Still, having a space heater on hand for emergencies is never a bad idea.
Of all these options, the heat pump will be the most efficient way to keep your barndo warm and cool. It will also save you the most money: according to This Old House, they can save you hundreds of dollars every year. However, they do come at a much higher upfront cost; therefore, if you’re on a tight budget, they might not be the best way to go.
According to Energy Sage, air-source heat pumps are the less expensive option and cost between $3,500 and $6,000. However, geothermal heat pumps, which are partially in-ground systems, can run up to $35,000 by Home Guide’s estimate.
However, once you get past the upfront cost, they will save you money year after year, and what you save will only increase when energy prices rise. So think of it as a long-term investment, not just a heating system.
Heating a barndo isn’t much different from heating a standard home or any other building. However, to do so efficiently, you need to focus on three factors: weatherizing your barndo, choosing the right insulation, and installing an efficient heating system.
To ensure you don’t damage your barndo during the process, take the time to research all of your options before you start doing any of the physical work. While I’ve listed what I consider to be the best options, prices vary between brands and regions, so take the time to shop around.