How to Build an Energy Efficent House

Thinking of building a house or remodeling. Here are some principles for useing very little energy?

Here’s the details

  1. Extremely Well Insulated – Around all exterior surfaces, including below ground.
  2. Virtually Airtight Construction – The building envelope in a Passive House is extremely airtight in order to prevent the infiltration of outside air and loss of inside, heated, conditioned air. The envelope is measured and tested with a blower-door test during and after construction to ensure it meets this rigorous requirement
  3. Thermal Bridge Free Construction – Stops the transfer of heat and cold in the wall assemblies by breaking the thermal bridge. An easy way to understand this is that the cold air in winter (that you might feel on a window) is stopped from coming into the home and hot air or heat is stopped from transferring out of the house.
  4. Mechanical Ventilation – Accomplished by a constant supply of fresh, filtered outside air that is brought into the home while the stale air is blown out. Furthermore, the system is designed specifically to supply fresh air into primary living spaces such as living room and bedrooms and draw air out of spaces with higher odor and moisture content: kitchens and baths. Brilliant!
  5. High Performance Triple Pane Windows with Low E Glazing – The triple glass contributes to breaking thermal bridges, prevents massive heat losses and contributes to achieving passive solar gains.
  6. Passive Solar Gains – To maximize passive solar gain, or harness the sun’s energy for heating and minimize its effect during warmer seasons, more windows are placed on the south side of a Passive House and less windows on the side with northern exposure. Additionally, to avoid overheating in the summer, passive houses also feature intentional shading (awnings, etc.) as needed for southern exposures.

Because of these elements, all working together as system, the actual requirement for heating/cooling a passive house – or the size/capacity of the HVAC unit, is quite minimal compared to those required by traditionally-constructed homes.

Superior Comfort of a Passive House

Besides being carefully designed and built for ultimate energy efficiency, a Passive House offers superior comfort.

  • Superior Indoor Air Quality – Due to a continuous supply of filtered, fresh air, the overall air quality is healthier, with less pollen, and dust-free. Also, due to mechanical ventilation, the air in a Passive House never gets stale or stuffy as it does in a typical home when the windows are left unopened.
  • Consistent Indoor Temperature – Due to all of the combined elements listed above, a pleasant temperature is consistently maintained in living spaces without the help of either a conventional heating or cooling system. Passive homes are free of hot or cold spots and free of drafts, especially close to common trouble spots near exterior walls, windows and doors. Windows, floors and all interior walls stay the same pleasant temperature year round.
  • Quieter Living Spaces – Because passive homes are virtually air tight and extremely well insulated, the transfer of noise is minimized which means that ambient noise levels are kept at pleasant levels.

“Net Zero” buildings and homes

The concept of “Net Zero” buildings and homes are homes that produce as much energy as they use. They have become very much a reality and are the wave of the future.

In order for a home to be net zero,  
  • it must be able to generate or produce energy from a renewable source such as the sun such as Solar panels or arrays, also referred to as photovaltaics/PV’s.
  • the amount of energy used by the home must be roughly equivalent to the amount of energy created by the home. Thus the home essentially sustains itself.

Other things that can be incorporating:

  • Geo-thermal heating and cooling system
  • Solar water heating
  • Gray water systems
  • Rainwater collection
  • Rain  gardens
  • and more