Passive Houses – The Low Energy Eco Homes

In the current eco-conscious climate it seems that everyone is searching for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and work in harmony with our environment rather than against it. One such way in which some home owners are doing this is by creating eco-friendly ‘Passive Houses’.

A passive house is a home designed to require minimal heating or cooling, making it an eco-friendly and economical choice for home buyers. A house requiring minimal heating may sound like the stuff of dreams in Britain and thought to be the reserve of those fortunate enough to live in sunnier climates. However passive houses are becoming increasingly popular across Europe, particularly in Germany where energy is expensive.

To qualify officially as a passive house, a home must meet minimum criteria set by the International Passive House Association. In order to qualify a house must consume 86% less energy for heating and 46% less for cooling compared with other code-compliant buildings in the same climate.

To reduce or even completely eliminate the need for heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, a passive house is built airtight. This is ensured by using strong exterior insulation, triple-pane windows, and construction methods that ensure no heat is transferred across the exterior of the building. This means that no outdoor air seeps in and no indoor air escapes. In addition to this, passive houses also benefit from being situated correctly, so that they capture maximum sunlight in the winter and shade in the summer.

The reduction in energy consumption caused by passive houses is stark in comparison to the average home. Although the building of a passive house will typically set home owners back 10-15% more in upfront costs, it is generally thought that these homes use up to 90% less energy so the initial outlay is quickly recouped in lower utility bills.

Aside from lower energy consumption and expenditure, passive houses offer many more benefits to home owners such as a cleaner and fresher air flow. Usually in a passive house, fresh air is brought in and stale air is removed by a ventilation system which passes filters to remove allergens and pollution. Some passive house owners find that this reduces smells, and even that they sleep better because the ventilation system prevents carbon dioxide build up at night.

Passive houses can be especially beneficial to people with allergies or sensitivities to mould and mildew, because the effective air flow filters seal out irritants.

And whilst the passive house standard doesn’t require the use of eco-friendly building practices beyond minimizing the energy use of the finished house, most architects and builders who work on passive houses also use non-toxic and sustainably sourced construction materials.

Passive houses appear to be the answer to the prayers of eco warriors, however with standard house prices already high and passive homes requiring such a large initial cost it seems unlikely, and unfortunate, that many home owners will be able to make the transition over to a greener home in the near future.

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