Passive Houses: Sustainability and Comfort Under One Roof
We’re really proud to share that we’ve had a handful of customers call us and order our shades to become a part of the design in their passive homes. And for those of you who are wondering what a passive home is, or who are looking to design or retrofit your own, we’ve compiled a bit of information on the subject! Passive homes are a fantastic alternative to traditional housing, and it’s something we hope and expect to see more of in the United States in the near future!
What’s in the House?
Passive House (or PassivHaus in Germany, the passive house mega center) isn’t a brand name, but a way of constructing a home. While the design and layout of any two passive houses may be different, all passive houses are energy efficient, comfortable, and ecological. The design concept can be applied to homes as well as public buildings and schools.
Passive houses are insulated really well around the whole house – there are no “weak spots”, no cold sections, or any area that loses much heat. Top-quality insulating windows, well-insulated walls, roofing, and flooring keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer.
Along with superb insulation are carefully designed and installed ventilation systems to keep air fresh. This helps create a very comfortable environment year round without moisture build up or drafts. Passive homes also have an efficient heat-recovery unity that allows heat in the exhaust air to be reused.
Something that a lot of folks who visit passive homes or who own them really enjoy is how the lack of traditional heating or cooling, plus the highly-insulating windows and walls, allows for plenty of peace and quiet inside the home. Plus, nice, big, sun-catching windows allow for magnificent views!
There is no one set way to build a passive house – a lot of it depends on location. In extreme weather locations, more insulation is needed to maintain comfort than in Europe, where temperatures are mild and humidity is rather low.
How Much Energy Do They Save?
Passive houses can save up to 90% on heating and cooling expenses compared to traditional buildings. Since these homes don’t require standard heating and cooling systems, they use far less oil. These houses rely on solar energy, insulation, and even body heat to keep things comfortable in cold months! Passive homes are known as a “factor 10 house” because they use one tenth the energy used by average houses.
Who Has a Passive House?
Currently, passive houses are a lot more popular in Europe. Energy costs are especially high across the pond, so there is a greater incentive to build the most energy-efficient house possible. Passive houses do cost more upfront than normal houses – about 5-20% more than the cost to build an average home. In Europe, the payback time is much shorter than in the United States, but as demand increases and cost of goods decreases, the payback time in the States will become less. Many United States passive home owners agree, though, that you cannot put a price on a healthy planet, and that the benefits that passive homes offer in terms of comfort help outweigh the upfront cost.
There is definitely a shift in interest toward these passive homes. More than 1,000 builders, architects, and consultants in the United States are trained in passive-house design. There are many passive house projects in the works across the country. And Minnesota-based window manufacturer, Marvin Windows now makes windows that meet passive standards.
More than 1 third of passive houses in the United States are currently in the Pacific Northwest because the conditions there are really well-suited for the current standard of passive housing.
Where Do We Go From Here?
If you are interested in building a passive home or retrofitting your home to make it passive, there are many, many resources available online to gain more information. Here is a site we find helpful:
Passive House Institute of the US (PHIUS)’s goal is to “make passive building a mainstream market force and accepted best practice in the industry.”
But maybe you aren’t on the market for a whole new home, or it’s not in your budget at this time to make your home totally passive. Not a problem – there are a other alternatives out there!
“Pretty Good House”: is a concept where you make your home very, very energy-efficient and sustainable by using local materials, plenty of insulation, and keep your home relatively small. Use renewable energy like solar panels. Having a “Pretty Good House” allows you to achieve the energy-efficiency you strive for but without as much cost.
And if you’re feeling very adventurous, you can always go off the grid!
No matter where you stand in making your home a more energy-efficient place, our shades will help you get the job done. In passive homes, they are opened to let sunlight in, and then closed to keep the heat inside once the sun has set – and this method works perfectly for traditional homes as well! We are honored to hear that the folks who are taking the steps toward making their home passive are using our insulating shades, and we’re just as honored knowing that our customers use them for privacy, decor, and everyday energy efficiency. Thank you from all of us, and happy insulating!