If you want to go green with a new home or update and renovate your existing home, you may be wondering about passive houses. Passive houses are homes that strive for net zero energy usage. They accomplish this through innovative designs and features, like high-insulating doors and windows, solar panels, and energy-efficient appliances. Let’s look at what makes a passive home a passive energy home.
What is a passive home?
A passive home is a net zero energy home. Net zero energy means that at the end of the year, the energy usage by the house from the municipal grid equals zero or is very close to zero.
The goal of passive homes is to use as little energy as possible. These homes use positioning and layout, shading, ventilation, energy-efficient appliances, insinuation, solar panels, and natural light to control energy usage and costs. A properly designed passive home uses up to 90% less energy than its traditional counterpart.
What makes a passive home passive?
Passive homes are passive because they use non-mechanical and low-energy methods to keep their interiors comfortable. This includes strategies like:
- Orienting the house and room layout to maximize summer cooling and winter heat from the sun
- Using bricks, stone, and other types of masonry on the exterior for heat control
- Utilizing certain ventilation techniques, like transoms above doors, windows that open, and attic fans
Passive homes are important for reducing overall energy usage by humans and reliance on municipal grids. While not every home will create a net zero energy usage, doing what each family is capable of to reduce usage can go a long way. And don’t forget — using less energy means lower energy costs!
How does layout factor into a passive home?
Passive homes are laid out to maximize and minimize the sun’s heat, depending on the season. For example, you wouldn’t want the walls or windows of your bedroom to receive all the sun’s rays during the middle of summer because the room would be too hot. In passive house design, the property, the structure’s orientation, how the sun shines on the property, and the home's layout are all considered during the design phase. This helps ensure that your home is comfortable year-round.
Can I renovate my existing home to be a passive house?
You can renovate an existing home to be more energy efficient. Some strategies to do this include:
- Replacing your current appliances with energy-efficient models
- Adding insulation
- Ensuring that all air leaks are found and sealed
Additionally, you may want to add and subtract windows from your home. For example, you may want more windows on your home's south and east walls and fewer on the north and west sides. You may also want to upgrade your roof to an energy-efficient version and install solar panels so that your home, with the sun’s help, can generate some of its own power.
Are the materials in a passive home sustainable?
To maximize the greenness of your passive home, you should consider sustainable materials like wood, brick, stone, concrete, and even aluminum. Choosing stone, brick, and even concrete ensures that the exterior of your home lasts for decades, and these materials can help control your home's temperature.
If you prefer wooden exterior features, many logging operations now reseed forests once they’ve cut down the trees so that new trees grow in their place and reduce environmental impact. You can opt for reclaimed wood to further reduce your home's environmental impact.
Aluminum is also a sustainable and recyclable material. Much of the aluminum produced is still in use today, and because it doesn’t rust or corrode easily, aluminum building products last longer than other metals.
Can I still have large doors and windows if I have a passive home?
If you build a passive home or renovate an existing home to be a passive home, you can still have large doors and windows. In fact, they are encouraged to maximize the use of natural light!
The trick is to make sure that all of your exterior windows and doors are high-insulating or designed for use in passive homes. This also often means choosing triple-glazed, also called triple-paned, doors and windows where the spaces between the windows are filled with inert gas to help minimize heat transfer.
Take a look at our MasterLine 10 windows and CW50 HI (high-insulating) curtain walls, which are both Passivhaus certified. These glass elements meet rigid standards to provide ample natural light while also maintaining thermal comfort and minimizing energy loss.
How does insulation factor into a passive home?
For most homes, the largest energy user is the heating and cooling system. When air transfer from inside to outside the home and vice versa is prevented via high-quality insulation, heating and cooling bills decrease. This usually means adding double the insulation required by modern building codes. It also means insulating the entire building envelope, including the slab or foundation, walls, attic, and roof.
Homeowners can choose to use other materials for their home's frame and exterior walls, like insulated concrete forms (ICF) and structural insulated panels (SIP), rather than wood or steel framed homes.
What appliances should I choose for a passive home?
The appliances you choose for your passive home should be Energy Star-rated and use minimal electricity or gas. Energy-efficient appliances are essential if you plan to use solar panels and battery backups to help supply the electricity needed for your home. You’ll also want to choose low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads and pay attention to how much water your washer and dishwasher use.
Sustainable Aluminum Door and Windows From Reynaers Aluminium
At Reynaers Aluminium, we provide energy-efficient windows, doors, sliding systems, and curtain walls for passive home designs. Our systems can even include technology for Smart Buildings.