Passive Houses – Wave of the Future?

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  • Last month we talked about the history of heating and cooling, but with technology changing as rapidly as it is, there are some exciting energy developments on the horizon.  Among them?  The Passive House.

    Ishutterstock_150293594f you’ve never heard of a passive house, you aren’t alone.  The trend began in Germany in recent years, but it is slowly spreading across the world.  So what is a passive house (or Passivhaus) anyway?  Essentially, it’s a home that is built and designed to be as energy efficient as possible.

    A passive house utilizes heat pump technology, but it is also designed with building materials and specifications to make it as close to airtight as possible, so none of the energy used in heating or cooling the house is wasted.  Passive houses have a rigorous (and voluntary) standard for energy efficiency – a passive house will use less than 4,755 BTUs per square foot per year for heating and cooling.

    A passive house is designed to make it as close to airtight as possible, so none of the energy used in heating or cooling the house is wasted.

    How do they do accomplish that?  Passive solar design, superinsulation, advance window technology, airtightness, ventilation, and heat pump technology.

    Passive solar design means that the house was designed to be a shape and layout that will maximize solar gain (i.e. natural heating from the sun).   Houses are compact in design, with the majority of windows situated in such a way that they point toward the equator.

    Superinsulation reduces the heat transfer through walls, floors and the roof – but it is much thicker than regular insulation which can make the interior feel smaller with those thick walls.

    The most up-to-date windows are also part of most passive houses –including triple panes and advanced air-seals to keep the warm air in during the winter and the cooler air in during summer months.  They are extremely airtight with carefully designed ventilation and of course they make use of energy efficient lighting and appliances as well as heat-pump technology for space heating.

    The end result?  A comfortable home that is virtually invisible on infrared because it locks in all the energy and wastes as little as possible.

    Currently there are only about twenty thousand passive houses in the world.

    Currently there are only about twenty thousand passive houses in the world (out of about 1.5 billion), but who knows?  It may be the wave of the future.

    But even if we aren’t all living in passive houses in the next six months we can reduce our energy consumption—and our energy bill—significantly by installing modern heating technology into our existing homes.  When you want to know more about how a ductless heat pump system can save you money, give us a call.