Friday, July 2, 2010

Passive Houses in the US

One of the many questions I got regarding our passive house (see the Wikipedia entry for many links) is whether there is a similar standard in the USA or whether I know of resources to learn more about what is available. I promised that in a blog post I would try to list some resources I found and learned about the last few years. Guess what, you just started reading that promised post.
Passive house scheme.Image via Wikipedia

When my wife and I started to look into building a passive house we - by chance - also heard an interesting radio story on NPR about such a house built out of straw in Southern California and also saw a documentary in the German children TV show "Die Sendung mit der Maus". I found the documentary on youtube:

Although it is in German, you will find several videos in your language, e.g., English, by searching for "passive house".

In Germany, the Passivhaus-Institut is trying to set and coordinate standards, provide help and research technologies. It also offers information in English. In the US there is now a Passive House Institute US. In addition to information material it also has contact data for Certified Passive House Consultants all over the US.

A passive house combines several technologies to reduce energy consumption. So it is a good idea to learn about those components individually:
  • solar panels are used to either heat water or to produce power
  • ventilation systems with heat recovery are in place to allow constant ventilation while preserving energy in the Winter and helping to keep the inside cooler in the Summer
  • in many houses a heat pump is used for heating and warm water
  • windows have to be of good quality and should be constructed such that they let sunshine in during the Winter and are covered by shade in the Summer
That's probably already more than I wanted to write in this first installment. Let me know if you have specific questions.