Heating vaulted or cathedral style ceilings (efficiently)

Please note, this is a draft version of the post 🙂

Everyone I know that has a vaulted ceiling says they are very nice to look at but that it is very difficult to heat/cool a house that has them.

The most recent example was this past Sunday at church. My friend is retired and her children have moved out on their own. Now her house is too big and the vaulted ceiling is costing her a lot of money to heat during this cold Missouri winter. She has contemplated converting the space into a single story with space above but she would hate to lose the look/view, her children chide her she should install a glass ceiling to keep that heat from escaping.

Coincidentally, Samantha and I have a vaulted ceiling for portions of our new house that is scheduled to begin construction this year. So it is imperative for us to have a viable solution for keeping our house comfortable and efficient.

You can find some discussion on dealing with vaulted ceiling heat problems after the fact:


However, since we are building a house, I am more interested in dealing with the problems before the house is finished.  As such here are some options for dealing with vaulted/cathedral style ceilings:

  1. Insulate well
  2. Get rid of the vault
  3. Lower the vault (either the height, roof pitch, or both) – Our original plan called for a one and a half story great room with vaulted ceiling. This design is very popular with timber frame construction as it lends itself to spectacular views of the timbers. However, lowering that to a story and a quarter or even a single story can still look quite nice and can drastically reduce the amount of space for heat to escape to.

    1. If you are building a timber frame structure, be aware that the various trusses each have a somewhat minimum roof pitch. You can find some interestingdiscussion here:
  4. Use radiant heat
  5. Use ceiling fans
  6. Have a hot air return
  7. Heat with wood –  wood is an amazingly energy dense material and with proper use can heat a very large space at minimal cost (if you live in an area with abundant* wood).
    *in our rural are, enough wood can be had just from cutting up fallen down (dead) trees, thus requiring no cutting of live trees.

(this post will be updated with more details and photos, for now it is just a draft version…)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *