Passive House Benefits
Energy costs are high and carbon emissions are dangerous for the planet. How can we change our homes so that they are more energy-efficient, reduce energy consumption, contribute less to carbon emissions, and save money at the same time?
The average home has many areas for improvement when it comes to energy efficiency. One way is to do a home energy audit to reduce wasted energy. Another is to use solar energy or other alternative energy instead of petro fuels and electricity from the grid which is usually from coal-fired power plants. Another way is to help your house function passively. A passive home lets the sun, wind and water do what they will to heat and cool it naturally, without electricity or fuel consumption.
Here are 10 ways you can make your home a passive house. Many of these suggestions have little to no cost associated with them and are easy to implement. By following any of these simple, commonsense steps, you can make your home more comfortable, use less energy and save money.
1. Let the Sun Shine In
Indigenous people through time have used the sun to heat their dwellings. Your home may already be in a good position to take advantage of solar heat gain. Start by opening the curtains on south-facing windows during cold winter days. If you are doing a remodel, consider adding or enlarging south windows. If you live in a hot climate, be cautious of too much window glass facing south because it can cause overheating. Solar enrgy is free, so why not make the most of it.
2. Close Your Blinds
Sun is welcomed inside on cold days, but in the middle of summer it is a different story. On hot sunny days, with sunlight streaming in windows, homes can quickly overheat and send air conditioning systems into overdrive. To avoid this, close your curtains or blinds during the day to decrease solar heat entering your home. You can also install reflective blinds that further reduce solar heating to keep you cooler and your air conditioner off or only running on low. It may seem strange to close your blinds during the day, but it can actually save you energy and money in the summer. It is particularly good when you are away at work because you won't miss the view and you'll come home to a cooler house.
3. Add Awnings
Interior shading is good, but blocking the sun before it strikes your window is better. Window overhangs, shade louvers, or awnings are a good way to keep sun off your windows and heat out of your home. The nice thing about south-facing windows with overhangs is that they shade the windows in summer when the sun is high in the sky and in winter, low angle sun misses the shading device and comes right in the room where you want it.
4. Plant Trees for Shade
Strategically placed trees can help homes perform better by shading the house from unwanted solar heat gain. Plant shade trees on the east and west sides of your home to shade low angle, morning and evening summer sun. This technique can also help reduce glare from intense, low angle sun, a frequent problem for west-facing windows in the evening. Choose deciduous trees so that they lose their leaves in winter, allowing winter sunlight between the branches.
5. Plant Trees for Shelter
Trees also offer wonderful protection from the elements. Shill winds can sap a home of its warmth, putting more strain on the heating system. Trees break the wind and reduce heat loss due to fierce winds. Grow large evergreen trees on the appropriate side of your home to shelter it from prevailing winter winds. Choose evergreen trees that stay full through the coldest months for better winter protection.
Heat comes and goes through the walls and roof of your home. Making sure your home insulation is up to par will keep it snug in winter and cool in summer. Pay particular attention to your roof or attic and your basement insulation. Also increase air tightness of your home by sealing leaks with weather-stripping or spray foam insulation.
7. Daytime Ventilation
A breeze can make a huge difference in comfort on a mild summer day. Open opposite windows during the day to let a breeze through. For optimal air flow make sure there is a straight path between the two windows. The window that air comes in can also have a smaller opening than the exit window to improve air flow. Be careful to close the windows before it gets hot enough for the air conditioner to kick in.
8. Nighttime Ventilation
In hot climates, the outdoor temperature often drops significantly at night. It is easy to use this to your advantage by opening some windows at night to expel heat accumulated during the day to the cool night air. By morning your home will be noticeably cooler, giving the day a fresh and cool start. Be sure to close the windows before the outdoor temperature exceeds the indoor temperature.
9. Evaporative Cooling
Swamp coolers work well instead of air conditioners in dry climates, but they are not completely passive since they require electricity to power a fan. Setting bowls of water out on windowsills to catch the breeze will cool the incoming air and keep your home a little cooler. The drier the air is and the more natural breeze there is, the better this will work. Do not attempt this on humid days as you will see little benefit. If there is little or no breeze, turn on a (solar-powered) fan to help pull air through the window.
10. Create A Microclimate
Build a low wall or add a roofed patio around your front or back door and add plants to the space. This semi sheltered area – livened with plant material whether it be trees, shrubs, vines, flowers or even a vegetable garden – will create a micro climate that stays warmer than outdoor ambient temperature in winter and cooler in summer. It also makes an enjoyable, comfortable place to spend time – have a snack, chat with neighbors, or just read a book.