A passive house offers eco-friendly and energy-efficient options for homes and it could be what we need to reduce the pressure we are putting on the planet.
What is a passive house?
A passive house is one in which interior climate and temperature can be maintained without an active heating or cooling system. Sounds cool, right?
A certified standard on how to build a passive house was created by the Passivhaus Institut in Germany, and goes beyond the concept of just solar panels or alternate energy sources. In order for a structure to be certified as passive, buildings must meet certain criteria.
Passive houses are considered to be one of the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly options for homes since they reduce the energy needed to cool and heat your home. They’re capable of energy savings as high as 90% compared to typical structures and 75% compared to new construction.
What really makes passive structures cool is that they make use of shade, sunlight, and other internal and external temperature sources to eliminate the need for an active heating or cooling system.
The infographic in this article will share more information on how these structures work, and how best you can plan and prepare to design your next passive home since there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building one.
How does a passive house work?
Passive houses work by creating a comfortable interior temperature and climate that stays consistent without active heating or cooling. They do this in a few key ways, using high-quality insulation and ventilation as primary components.
The heated air inside a home often escapes through the path of least resistance, called a “thermal bridge.” Houses often lose heat through small cracks, inefficient windows, or poor insulation. A passive house seals these areas and removes the thermal bridge.
Features such as super insulation and quality ventilation help prevent heat loss so homeowners can live comfortably while the house maintains its temperature.
Passive houses also use “free heat” to warm the home. Free heat comes from things like body temperature, gas, ovens, computers, and light bulbs. This, combined with other passive ways to maintain a home’s temperature based on climate — like using shade to cool a home in a warmer climate — makes for a highly efficient indoor climate.
Since a passive home requires an official certification, any home built to meet these criteria reaps the energy savings benefits. Features like space heating and cooling demand, energy demand, and airtightness are each measured and contribute to earning the certification.
Infographic designed by The Zebra
Key features of a passive home include:
- Super insulation: A layer of efficient insulation wraps around the entire building, including beneath the foundation and around basements, to reduce heat transfer from inside and outside.
- Quality ventilation: Ventilation systems exchange moist air that may contain allergens for fresh air from outdoors. This helps maintain the temperature and humidity inside the home.
- Free heating: Passive houses pass fresh exterior air through the ventilation system. When cold air enters the system, it is heated by warm air from the same system using free heat sources such as body temperature, gas, ovens, and computers.
- Efficient windows: Windows can often be a source of lost hot or cold air. Triple-paned windows with insulated frames prevent this.
- Airtight enclosures: Sealed construction prevents moist air from getting into the home, where it can impact air quality and even create mold.
Benefits of building passive homes
Building a passive house isn’t just about saving the environment, it’s also of great benefit to those living in them since they will have lower electric bills, quieter homes, and much more. Below are some of the benefits of building or redesigning a home to be passive.
1. Reduced energy costs
Passive homes are modeled to be energy efficient which is one of their most appealing benefits. They have the potential to use 90% less energy than standard buildings, which also means lower energy bills.
The homes are meant to heat and cool themselves without air conditioners or furnaces which in return lowers monthly energy bills.
2. Increased comfort
In comparison to standard construction, passive houses can offer more comfort to occupants living in them. With a focus on insulation and high-performance ventilation, passive houses use energy sources inside the building, such as body heat, to maintain an even temperature throughout the space.
Additionally, the difference between the temperature of doors or windows — which can often be cooler or warmer than the rest of the home — is consistent with the internal temperature of the rest of the home due to the quality of the insulation.
3. Improved indoor air quality & reduced risk of allergies
Considering the fact that passive houses are built to be airtight, that is why they have an efficient ventilation system that filters out pollen and allergens more quickly.
The improved ventilation system also ensures that there is less dust coming into the house while keeping the air fresh and free of pollutants and odors that may irritate those with allergies.
The infographic below offers some insights on how it all comes together, from the components of a passive house to how each part leads to benefits in your day-to-day life.
Infographic designed by The Zebra
Redesigning your home so as to earn a passive certification may take some time, though it can also be easily achieved by making small tweaks such as changing your exterior house color or adding window overhangs can help reduce overall temperature loss in your home.
Each of these efforts may make your home more energy-efficient, with the added benefit of a comfortable and future-proofed forever home. As you make structural updates to your home, remember to update your home insurance policy to reflect any changes.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.