This is a short article on new house construction that makes your home electric bill dwindle to almost nothing, and heating & cooling of your house virtually un-needed. In 1996, Wolfgang Feist founded the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany & his ideas have been used in over 25,000 European buildings. From 2020 onwards, the EU will require new buildings to produce nearly all the energy they use, based to a large degree upon the abilities of Passivhaus construction to eliminate energy needs. In 2008, the concept of a Passive House finally came to America, under an Institute licensed under the German institute. Passive House concepts are taking houses to an entirely new level of performance. Not only are they known for slashing energy costs, but also for their fresh air, and their ability to quickly return to a perfect temperature if they are exposed to outside temperatures. Part of the reason it took some time coming to the U.S. is the wide range of environments in the USA.
PASSIVE HOUSES IN AMERICA. The first in the U.S. (although it was not certified) was at Urbana, IL. In the South, the first one was built near U. of Louisiana. Maine, MD, NY, and CA are some of the other states to build the first passive houses in the U.S. These new passive houses have come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Dehumidifying needs, fresh air needs, the ability to deal with drastic temp changes are some of the design problems that had to be overcome to create Passive houses. ERVs are used for heat-recovery. There are big differences between standard construction & passive. The commitment to a passive certified house means that from the foundation on up, things are being sealed & insulated so that the inside temperatures are isolated. Newer technologies are also often incorporated into the designs. Solar panels & radiant heating systems may be added. With builders experienced with constructive passive houses the extra costs may be about 10% over standard construction. With an inexperienced builder, because of the learning curve, it may run up to 25% more.
NEW METHODS. Computer simulations are often used to aid the design process of passive homes. Also advanced window technology is often used. Innovative lighting is employed too.
NEW HOME CONSTRUCTION. While the trend in new homes is to improve kitchens & basement areas from what was done in past years, these higher standards will make the new homes more enjoyable, but they won’t cut costs. An example of the electric bill of a passive house in Maryland was $700 for the entire year, where a conventional home with the same area & appliances in the area would cost $7,000. in electric bills. In other words, the energy costs were 1/10 of what they would be with standard construction.
I expect that we will follow the Europeans & increasingly build more passive buildings. For more info the Passive House Institute U.S. has a web site. There is also a Wikipedia article on this.