Side Benefits of a Passive House – Extreme Energy Efficiency
There’s no doubt that building to Passive House standards results in energy consumption that’s about 70 to 80 percent less than what you’d expect from a traditionally built home (or school, or office building, or factory…you get the picture). That’s due in part to the fact that the home is air tight, super-insulated and uses a heat recovery ventilation system that exhausts air (and moisture) and replaces it with fresh filtered air. It’s warmed primarily by passive solar and internal heat gains from occupants, cooking, bathing and electrical equipment and kept cool in summer through shading, window orientation and ventilation.
And yes, you can open the windows and doors. Thanks to the filtering system, it doesn’t matter if the doors and windows are open or closed. And no, you don’t have to live in a windowless box. Whatever style you wish, it’s possible with Passive House.
We recently interviewed the owners of Central California’s first certified Passive House that we finished in November 2012. The dramatic energy and water savings were givens. It was the bonus benefits that broadened the smile on our collective faces.
For starters, all year round every room is kept at a consistent temperature—no dips or spikes to get in the way of comfort. Evidence that the filtered air is pristine shows up in interesting ways. They’ve lived in the home four years and haven’t had to dust once…not a single time. There are no bugs on windows sills or in corners, no spider webs, no ants, none. Both occupants use allergy meds when they’re away from the home, but when they’re in their certified Passive House they retire the sprays and tablets after just a few hours. While the outside of the windows are washed periodically, the inside of the panes were washed only once. And according to the window washer, that wasn’t necessary.
And it’s quiet. There’s no whoosh of air from an HVAC system, noisy pipes or other sounds that seem to be present in the average house. Quiet is a secondary benefit of the excellent insulation in walls, ceiling and floors.
So, when you add it all up, Passive is Aggressive as we like to say. After building this way, I know it’s simply the right way to build, whether or not we are pursuing Passive House certification. It’s better for the planet, better for the people who live in the home, and it makes me feel better knowing we’re building excellent quality homes.