What Is A Passive House? 5 Ways To Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

Posted by on Mar 17, 2020 in Blog, envronmental industry, sustainable business, sustainable environment | 0 comments

What Is A Passive House? 5 Ways To Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

Necessity is the mother of invention. The consequences of the climate crisis have become all too apparent. There’s a feeling that we need to reconceptualize our society from the ground up – the homes we live in, the ways we get around, how we eat, what we consume, and more. This need has led to thinkers and inventors finding novel ways of reducing emissions. 

Passive House is one such invention – a reconceptualization of home construction that focuses on reducing energy consumption through the proper management of thermal energy. Passive House is the way of the future because it reduces fuel consumption by changing the way homes are built, reducing their reliance on air conditioning and furnaces for climate control.

The Passive House standard doesn’t tell you what materials to use or how to construct your house. Rather, it simply sets stringent standards for certification. Your building can’t be heated by more than 10W/m2, and the standard is similar for cooling. The building’s primary energy demand can’t exceed 120kWh annually. The building must be extremely airtight – 0.6 air changes per hour. Want to move towards meeting these criteria? This guide can help – especially if you’re looking to build a new home.

It’s All About Insulation

Insulation is the core of the low-energy home design. The vast majority of energy consumed by households is used for space heating and water heating – air conditioning is a big chunk, too. When your home is very well-insulated, you’ll consume a lot less energy each year. To understand why, you need to know a little bit about heat transfer.

Without getting too technical, heat is always balancing out – when one area is hot and an adjacent area is cold, the heat will start to seep towards the cold. Various materials have different levels of thermal resistance – the ability to impede the flow of heat from one place to another. 

To find the right materials to insulate your home with, you’ll want to look at materials with very low U-values. The lower the U-value is, the less thick the insulation needs to be to provide adequate thermal resistance to your home. Vacuum insulation material is a lot more expensive than your average insulation, but you’ll need a lot less of it.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind – thermal bridges. Thermal bridges exist in places where there’s more heat transfer than the surrounding areas – in other words, in places that aren’t as insulated. Even if you’re using the lowest U-value insulators possible in the rest of your home, if there’s a spot that isn’t properly insulated, you’re losing most of the benefits; a lot of heat will escape from that spot. Make sure joints, the attic, and every inch of wall is insulated. All this insulation creates new needs – more on those later.

Mind Your Doors and Windows

With all of this talk of insulation, it would be negligent to forget about doors and windows. Like insulation materials, doors and windows have U-values and R-values that allow you to determine how resistant they are to heat transfer. As we just discussed, you want to avoid thermal bridges, so you’ll need robust doors and windows installed if you want to meet the standard.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

At this point, we’ve created a home that’s basically airtight; highly insulated, with doors and windows acting as protective barriers. There are a few problems that stem from this. First, moisture is going to have a hard time making its way out of your home. Second, air might start getting a bit stale. These are inevitable consequences of reducing heat transfer – insulation impedes the movement of air, too. How do you keep air quality high while reducing energy consumption?

The answer lies in heat recovery ventilation (HRV) and energy recovery ventilation (ERV). These systems cycle stale internal air and replace it with external air. They do so while transferring heat from the internal air to the external air, reducing the need to reheat the air using more energy-intensive means. The key difference between the two is that ERV units can also transfer moisture, reducing the need to humidify or dehumidify your home.

Energy Efficient Appliances

Now that your home itself has high thermal resistance, it’s time to focus on your appliances. Depending on where you live, you might still need a furnace or air conditioning; temperature extremes tend to reduce the effectiveness of Passive House design. You’ll want to choose the most energy-efficient models you can for each. New furnaces can be extraordinarily efficient, turning almost all of their fuel into heat. You might also benefit from a heat pump – depending on where you live, it can act as both an air conditioning unit and a furnace.

Other high energy appliances should also be modernized. From your washer and dryer to your fridge and stove, energy efficiency has skyrocketed in the last decade. When you’re using an older model, you’re suffering from double inefficiencies: first, because they were designed inefficiently, and second, because wear and tear has reduced their efficiency. Buy new appliances – Energy Star is a great resource if you want to find the most efficient ones. 

Smarter Living

There are a lot of smart ways to save energy without breaking the bank. Switch to CFL light bulbs. Take care to switch off lights when they’re not in use. Reduce vampire power by using power strips on a timer. Use smart technology to program your heating and cooling appliances so they use less energy while you’re away. Do the same with smart light bulbs.  Go outside more on hot days so you don’t need to cool your home. Bundle up more on cold days so you don’t need to heat your home as much. Invest in area rugs and slippers to keep you toasty. 

From big changes to small, we can create a society that is conscious of our impact on the environment. Talk to your friends and family about what needs to change, and give them the very same tips we’ve given you. Together, we will create a greener world. 

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Related Articles and Resources:

What to Look for in Your Next Eco-Friendly Home

Finding Pure Water After A Disaster – Water Purification Methods

Green Buildings – What Makes Them Green?


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