Concerns about climate change are mounting, energy costs are on the rise, and homeowners everywhere are looking for answers.
Fortunately, architects, contractors, and homeowners are meeting energy problems
But many homeowners are taking things even further.
Passive houses go beyond net zero by focusing on efficiency, not offsets.
The Passive House Institute defines a passive house as being “truly energy efficient, comfortable and affordable at the same time.” Compared to a modern new home, a passive house uses 75% less energy. Compared to an older home, it uses 90% less energy.
These innovative buildings put a huge dent in energy usage and raise the standards of comfort. Soon, all new homes will be net-zero when it comes to energy. One day, passive home construction will be the norm.
Passive homes are more than solar panels.
For many people, solar power comes to mind when they think of energy conservation. Solar is a good thing, but loading your roof with panels isn’t the best way to achieve net zero—the point where your house is producing all of its own electricity.
That’s where passive homes come in. In a passive house, good insulation is absolutely critical. Technologies like triple-paned windows, continuous insulation, and heat recovery systems make passive homes incredibly efficient. Design that makes use of existing shade significantly reduces the need for old-fashioned air conditioning.
Comfort is another defining factor in passive house design. Surfaces like walls and floors stay the same temperature as the air, and the air stays consistently comfortable without the temperature ups and downs you get in a non-passive house.
With all that insulation, ventilation is an important piece of the puzzle. With the right ventilation systems, a passive house stays comfortable and has a continuous supply of fresh air—without drafts.
New Avenue brings passive-inspired design to projects that can’t be fully passive.
While passive home design is an ideal, it’s an ideal that may be out of reach for various reasons. We believe strongly in the goal of net zero energy, and we work to incorporate passive-home design principles even in projects that won’t meet all the stringent requirements of the Passive House Institute or Passive House Institute US.
In fact, our very first project was a net-zero home.
If you’re planning an accessory dwelling or a major remodel, there are several passive-house design elements you can use—even if you’re not looking for a true passive house.
Better insulation goes a long way in retaining heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. Thicker insulation made of the right materials can make a huge difference in the amount of energy required for climate control.
Continuous insulation helps, too. New homes can be designed with insulation that covers any area that would normally act as a thermal bridge (where heat passes from one place to another).
The Best Windows for Saving Energy
In planning for a net zero energy home, the right windows are absolutely critical. Casement windows generally have a tighter seal than double-hung windows, and they come with an additional benefit: An open casement window can catch a breeze and direct it into the home, improving ventilation and acting as energy-free climate control.
Windows should be double or triple pane and properly sealed to reduce unwanted heat transfer. According to the Passive House Institute, triple glazing makes a room much more comfortable and therefore saves energy.
Using the Sun and Shade for Natural Climate Control
With the proper design, any house can make use of natural heat and cooling. Well-placed windows can make all the difference, enhancing heat from the winter sun and preventing overheating in the summer.
Existing shade should also be taken into account during the design process. A tree or neighboring building will cast different shadows at different times of day (and in different seasons). An architect designing a net zero energy home can use the shade that’s already on site to help with climate control.
Air Sealing and Ventilation
Every home has places that leak air. Dryer vents, thresholds, exhaust fans, electrical outlets, and other areas without a tight seal can cause enormous heat transfer. When these areas are identified and properly sealed, that transfer is minimal.
At the same time, the home must be properly ventilated.
New Avenue Is Helping Homeowners Save on Energy Costs and Reduce Their Carbon Footprint
We may have said this a few times before: We change lives. And we want to change the world. (We just can’t say it enough.) We believe in the power of passive homes and net-zero homes to make a difference.
We’re committed to bringing the best practices in home design to homeowners all over the United States. If you’re thinking about a remodel, an addition, or an accessory dwelling to make the most of your property, we’d love to talk to you about making your home as energy efficient as possible.
Schedule a call with our project manager and get started on your dream project today.
- International Passive House Association . Active for More Comfort: Passive House.
- Reardon, C., Mosher, M., and Clarke, C. Commonwealth of Australia [http://www.yourhome.gov.au/passive-design/passive-solar-heating] Department of the Environment and Energy . Your Home: Australia’s guide to environmentally sustainable homes. Your Home is CCBY licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.