What Is a Passive House?

| 2/16/2017 11:19:00 AM

Super insulation is at the heart of the Passive House construction concept.

Is it possible we’ve been approaching heating our homes from completely the wrong angle? That’s what proponents of the Passive House believe. Those who follow the principles of this German construction concept say that instead of heating up our homes, we should be trying to keep them from losing their natural heat.

How do you do this? Through super insulation, active ventilation and superior building materials. The result is a home that claims to save up to 90 percent on heating and cooling energy use.

Think of it like your morning cup of coffee. You can keep it warm by leaving it on the hotplate, where it receives a constant supply of heat until you’re ready to drink it. Or, you can put it in a thermos mug, where it will stay hot for hours. In your home, you can either stay warm by turning on a heater, or by preventing the warm air inside from escaping through insulating your walls, doors and windows.

A Passive House is designed and built to be effectively airtight, using super insulation in walls, triple-glazed windows and thermal bridge free construction to prevent any heat escaping or intruding, depending on the season. The combination of these three building principals effectively eliminates any potential air leaks in the home, keeping the inside temperature at a constant level that never varies more than 10 degrees, no matter how frightful the weather is outside. Crucially, a Passive House has no need for a dedicated HVAC unit. It uses no external energy source to provide most of its heat.

Instead, a Passive House relies on passive solar gain and ambient heat given off by its occupants and electronic equipment. Combined with super insulation, that can provide enough heat to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the home. Any additional need can be supplemented by energy generated from renewable resources. Solar-powered hot water, for instance, can power in-floor radiant heat for homes in particularly cold climates.

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