Passive House User's Guide
Living in a Passive House
- Owner's Guide -
v.1.0 May 2018
Congratulations on moving in to one of the world’s most energy efficient homes!
Your passive house is ‘Super’:
Super insulated, with R55 walls and R80 roof
Super quiet, with thick walls and triple glazed windows
Super air-tight, with zero draughts
How is this house different?
- This house uses ~90% less energy for heating than a typical house
- The house has ~3x as much insulation as a 'typical' North American house, and has windows and doors that are 3x as efficient.
- A lot of these energy savings also come from having a draught-free house (so that warm air doesn't leak out, and cold air doesn't leak in)
- Unlike a typical house, with a big bathroom fan or a big kitchen hood that blows a lot of air for a short period of time, the passive house’s ventilation system runs 24/7 exhausting a smaller amount of air continuously.
Triple Glazed Windows
Keep the heat in. Keep the noise out.
If the house is air-tight, what about fresh air?
- Every room in the passive house gets a steady stream of fresh, filtered air supplied by the ventilation system*
- Want to open a window? Go for it!
- When it’s really cold outside, or really hot, the house will work best with the windows closed (but you can always open a window if you want to feel a breeze or hear what’s going on outside).
- The ventilation system also exhausts air from the bathrooms and kitchen (...But no air is recirculated. Bathroom and kitchen air goes straight outside)
- If there are smells you want to get rid of, or shower steam, then the bathroom and kitchen exhaust can be ramped up for a little while using the system’s ‘boost’ mode.
* The ventilation system is an air-exchanger that captures heat (or coolness) from the exhaust air and transfers that energy to the fresh air that is being brought in. This means you always get fresh air, but you don’t lose the energy.
This type of system is called a Heat-Recovery-Ventilator (or HRV) and it uses a heat-exchanger ‘core’ to do the heat transfer.
How do you ‘operate’ a passive house?
A typical home is like a motor-boat; it burns a lot of energy and moves quickly. It can be very fast to heat up and fast to cool down when using a furnace or air conditioner.
A passive house, by contrast, is like a sailboat, it can do a lot with just a little bit of nature’s energy.
During the winter the house will operate most efficiently with the windows closed so that the ventilation system can recycle the home’s heat while still providing fresh air.
On sunny days the house might not need to use it’s heating system at all. On cloudy cold days the heating system will operate like a ‘regular’ house.
There are many times during the year when the temperature in Vancouver is very pleasant. You can leave the windows open day and night if you want.
Hottest Summer Days.
During the hottest weeks of the year your passive house will still be comfortable if you take a few steps:
- Use your window shades or external blinds during the day
- At night, open the windows so that cool night air can move through the house (this is called ‘night-flushing’).
During night-flushing you can also set your ventilation system to ‘summer bypass’ mode*.
When used in ‘summer bypass’ mode the HRV exchanges air but bypasses the core. On summer nights the bypass mode will cool the house more quickly.
A passive house that is operated this way will usually stay at a temperate that is roughly the average of the daytime and nighttime temperatures outside. If it’s 28C during the day and 15c at night then the house will be a comfortable 21C (without air conditioning!)
If your passive house does have a small air-conditioning system, then you can run that as needed, but keep the windows closed (just like you would in your car!).
What maintenance do you need to do in a passive house?
Change the Kitchen Hood Filters
If you have a kitchen with a recirculating kitchen hood then you should change the charcoal filters every 6 months to a year (depending on how much you use cook).
Change the air filters in the ventilation unit
at least once a year
The hot water in this building is provided by an ‘air source heat pump’ that has two components, a fan unit (on the roof) and a hot water tank (in the mechanical room).
The system, made by Sanden, operates like a refrigerator, except that it’s pumping heat from the air outside into the hot water tank, and it does it without any of the typical refrigerant chemicals.