Do you know the difference between a Passive House and Net Zero home? And how to make your home more energy efficient?
With the rising costs of pretty much everything, many of those who are planning to renovate or build a new home are looking for ways to make their homes more energy-efficient, efficiency that can result in cost savings. The push for building more environmentally friendly homes is also coming from the provincial and federal level in Canada, with many governments taking substantive steps to move towards Passive House and Net Zero-ready Homes.
What is a Passive House?
A Passive House is a home that meets certain requirements for airtightness, space heating and cooling energy demands, as well as thermal comfort level.
It’s achieved through:
- Thermal insulation that significantly reduces energy loss through the walls and roof.
- The right windows and proper window placement that reduces energy loss and allows for solar heat gain in winter months.
- A proper ventilation strategy and equipment that help to maintain a healthy and comfortable environment.
- Thermal bridge-free design.
- And airtightness that eliminates vapour migration that causes energy loss and increases structural longevity and healthy conditions.
When all of these requirements are met, you have a Passive House.
If you add a renewable source of energy (like solar radiation, wind, geothermal or tide waves) the Passive House becomes a Net Zero House: a house that uses the same or a lesser amount of energy that it generates.
“It’s exciting to see such a holistic and scientific approach to residential construction,” says Roman Taurbekov, a certified Passive House tradesperson and Passive House consultant from Alair Home Burnaby. “This movement helps families who get to enjoy the benefits of Passive Houses and savings along the way. But it also has a really big positive impact on the environment and on climate change.”
Passive House construction can be about 8 to 10 percent higher than conventional construction. But Passive and Net Zero Homes dramatically lower the cost of electricity and gas. This type of construction also helps to maintain resale value, making it a valuable long- term investment.
“One thing many don’t realize is that such buildings provide a higher level of comfort and quality of life,” says Taurbekov. “And it’s important to understand that even if you’re not going 100 percent Passive, those principles can and should be applied to conventional construction.”
Here are a few key ways to make a home more energy-efficient...
High-efficiency solar panels
Solar panels are high on the list for making a home more energy-efficient. They work by converting ultraviolet light into electricity and are already very popular in sunny climates. But the good news is that modern solar panels can work even when it’s overcast.
Panels are rated according to their ability to convert photons into electricity. But you may not always need the biggest, most highly rated panel to do the job. A knowledgeable builder can recommend which type of panel is right for your home.
In Canada, the average cost of installing a 7.5 kWh solar panel system is roughly $23,000. While that may sound like a steep initial cost, some provinces offer a PST exemption on installations and have programs to buy any power you don’t use. That investment can be recouped pretty quickly.Jason Babakaiff
Older homes experience drafts and heat loss due to poorly insulated doors, roofs and single-pane windows. Homes that aren’t air tight can also result in mold growth and other moisture-related issues.
Air barrier systems stop uncontrolled air leakage by using advancements in building methods and materials.
For example, when using the AeroBarrier process, installers place your home under extreme pressure. They then spray a patented synthetic acrylic spray throughout the space, filling every crack over 1/2-inch wide. It’s a quick procedure that can create an almost 100 percent airtight home, one that can use over 25 percent less energy a year.
The other option is to use SIP (Structural Insulated Panels). These are panels made of plywood and styrofoam insulation, also airtight materials. With proper installation, air leakage can be reduced to virtually zero.Martin Knowles
In-floor radiant heating converts your entire floor into a heating element. It allows you to heat and maintain a desirable temperature in the house by using less energy. It can cut heating costs by as much as 50 percent compared to other heating sources.
In-floor radiant heating can be hydronic or electric. It involves installing electric heating coils or water-heated tubing under the floors. Because heat naturally rises, installing a radiant floor heating system means using nature to our advantage.
“The Passive House approach takes things a step further. A heater can be incorporated into the ventilation system. And because a Passive House is airtight and well-insulated, it means you can heat your home with less equipment and at a lower cost,” says Taurbekov.
Heat pump systems
A heat pump is one of the most economical and efficient systems to heat water, and cool and heat the home.
“When a heat pump is used for cooling your house, the heat that is taken out of the living space can now be used in other places, for heating water for example. Doing this will save on electricity. And when it’s used in combination with a drain water heat recovery system, it can help you save even more energy.”Roman Taurbekov
Other ways to make your home more energy-efficient
- Triple-pane windows reduce temperature loss considerably. They’re a big benefit in colder regions.
- Smart thermostats can reduce power consumption when set to heat or cool only when residents are at home.
- Planting trees and shrubs around the home can help keep it cooler during the summer months, reducing the need for air conditioning.
- Energy-efficient appliances help reduce electrical costs.
“It’s about saving energy, saving money, and thinking about the future of your family and of the planet. I think building in this way really is the only way to go,” says Taurbekov.