A Passive House is a super insulated, very airtight home, that is designed to use less than 15% of the energy of a code built house using the 2006 code which is what Wisconsin and Minnesota are currently using. These homes are designed to be very long lasting, easily remodeled, comfortable, with craftsmanship throughout. The Passive House energy usage goals create the tightest building code in the world. In our area a furnace is not needed, if you needed heat a small electric base board would do. If air conditioning is needed a small mini-split air to air conditioner will do, and it will also provide efficient heat.
When the home is very tight, you need a ventilation system for fresh air and this is provided with a 95% efficient energy recovery ventilator. This system is designed and tested to provide fresh air and heated and cooled air evenly throughout the home. Indoor air quality is very good, and these homes are comfortable to live in.
The idea with these homes is to build sustainable, long lasting homes. This means we use long lasting, “green “ products as much as possible. Metal roofs and 50 year warranty siding are the type of things used. The inside of the home will probably be changed, maybe repeatedly, over the 100 year+ life of the home. The home can be built with a “service cavity” which has the plumbing and wiring in it so when it is remodeled, the main insulation and airsealing are not touched. Life cycle analysis of the materials used in construction is considered. What kind of interior finishes are used leads to better indoor air quality.
The thing to remember in a Passive House is it is very well designed and tested. In order to meet the energy requirements, 3 computer programs are used to model the home. The person doing the modeling has to have a large amount of knowledge. The Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) has to take a 9 day course and pass the test. Heating, cooling, ventilation, materials, site location, and many more things go into designing these homes. Climate matters greatly and windows are one of the key components in the home. Windows used in a Passive House are modeled and tested to levels far beyond what is commonly available in building centers. Windows and doors are also the weak point in the building envelope so it is important to get good ones. A certified Passive House also is tested repeatedly to achieve the energy goals and to make sure the home lasts. The testing is done by a third-party tester who is an experienced, trained person. It would be very hard for a builder to build a Passive House correctly without a Passive House Builder course. This is a 4 day course, and Lakeside Advanced Builders is now one of the few builders in the country that has passed this course. Details are critical in the design, testing and building of a home like this.
So what does the homeowner get out of this? They get a thoroughly designed and built home that is made to last, costs very little to live in, is renewable ready, built with “green” building products and practices, is comfortable and is made to be remodeled over its long life span. If the power goes out for a week, it may be inconvenient but the home will not have freezing pipes or issues like that. In a normal winter month the heat will probably come on very little.
So what does it cost? The goal is to build a Passive House for 15-20% more than a code built house. If you figure in all of your energy costs, lighting, heating/cooling etc., into a comparison between a code built house and a Passive House with additional mortgage, you save a large amount of money over a 20 or 30 year mortgage. Energy independance can be looked as a national security issue and IS in some countries. Austria passed a law saying any new home built will be a Passive House for this reason. A house like this is also environmentally sound. We only have one environment! Homes built like this make sense on many levels, let us build YOU one!