Passive Home Design: Is This the House of the Future?

Homeowners and homebuyers looking to improve energy a home’s energy efficiency may not yet have heard of passive home design. The fundamental principles begin at the design stage and make homes more efficient than even Energy Star homes. Best practices in passive home design keep homeowners comfortable and dramatically lower energy bills.

Passive home design provides homeowners with the most energy-efficient homes currently possible. Understand more about the passive home design and how homeowners may benefit from this approach today.

What to Know About Passive Home Design

As the green building trend heats up, builders and those interested in buying new construction homes or making older ones more energy-efficient are interested in learning more about passive design. A passive house is a building designed to be comfortable for humans and to be energy-efficient. These homes take little energy to heat or cool.

Such structures are built according to specific best practices that are able to maintain high air quality and stable indoor temperatures while preventing outside temperatures from impacting the interior temperature. These practices were developed over decades of research performed by the Passive House Institute (PHI) in Germany. Elements often seen in passive homes include:

  • An air-tight structure; 
  • Triple-paned windows;
  • Continuous insulation;
  • Thermal sealing of the interior; and
  • A system to manage air quality.

Residences built to these best practices are able to improve energy efficiency 90 percent more than that found in an average home. The bulk of the work of building a passive home comes in at the design stage and builders can use much of the same materials and methodologies that are necessary for a traditional home during the construction phase. The principles applied in passive home design can be used in building or retrofitting historic apartment buildings, rustic cabins, and modern homes.

Problems in Traditional Homes

Air leaks are one of the biggest issues found in traditional homes. These leaks can occur in the ductwork, around windows and doors, in walls, floors and more. Such air leaks allow heated or cooled air to be lost to the outside environment and for outdoor untreated air to move into a home. Owners experience drafts and have to increase energy consumption in order to keep the interior spaces of a home at a comfortable level. The structure of a home is vulnerable to changes in air moisture and humidity. Air leaks can increase the potential for a structure to deteriorate due to mold, rot, and condensation.

Those getting in on passive home design are building homes which may ultimately require less long-term maintenance in areas often hidden from sight but leading to expensive repairs. Mold, for instance, can reduce asking price for a home, even when a home has been properly treated and certification provided to new sellers. The best way to maintain and increase property values is to design preventative measures to reduce or eliminate air leaks into a building and avoid such issues from developing in the first place by making such improvements like energy-efficient windows, among others.

Experience a Passive Home

Those who switch to living in a passive home are often surprised at how much more comfortable they are when compared to a traditional home. Owners may find that they appreciate the subtle differences, consistent temperatures and improvement in air quality living in a passive home. In addition, such structures are more resilient in emergency situations such as power outages. The structures remain at comfortable temperatures longer than conventional buildings. Enjoy sitting next to the window during a winter’s day without the need for a heater or bulky sweaters as window glass temperature remains near that of the room.

Energy Star Home or Passive Home Design

Homeowners and prospective buyers have heard of Energy Star homes and products. A home with this designation is generally found to have an energy efficiency of 20 to 30 percent more than those built according to conventional building code standards. However, passive home design takes energy efficiency to the next level. Passive homes cut energy usage from 90 to 95 percent when it comes to heating and cooling. Overall energy usage ranges from 60 to 70 percent less than that of a traditionally built home. Passive homes exceed the air infiltration standard of Energy Star by roughly 10 times more.

Passive homes are significantly more sealed than that required by Energy Star. The initial investment in items such as triple-paned windows used in a Passive House design is offset by minimal energy bills while residents live in a home. Passive House principles can be used not only in new construction but may be implemented in existing homes. Certified Passive House consultants can help homeowners retrofit older homes that will improve the performance and energy-efficiency in a home. Consultants are trained and projects certified at PHIUS in Urbana, Ill.

More Passive Homes Coming to Local Communities

As the green home trend continues and homeowners see that thoughtful energy-efficient upgrades boost home value, many more may be looking into designing their home to reduce energy consumption. The initial outlay is offset by long-term energy savings and may even serve to improve the health of occupants within with attention to air quality. 

Gerry Zack2018-09-04T10:04:44-04:00

About the Author: Gerry Zack