It’s Cold Outside!

Seeing that the thermometer is reading -4°F this morning, it is a good time for me to vent about how typical construction just doesn’t cut it and how a Passive House can keep you toasty.  When it is this cold outside, you become keenly aware of every leak and cold spot and you realize that a typical home is more akin to a submarine with screen doors instead of a Thermos.  You also start to visualize dollar bills slipping out of every crack and bleeding through the walls as your furnace is burning nearly non-stop.

Our current home was built in the mid-sixties, so it is not quite up to today’s building standards, however, not much has changed with standard construction.  Walls are still the typical 2×4 stick construction with a wee bit of batt insulation, but there are gaps at the top, bottom, and sides of every stud through which heated air slips outside.

Ceilings have a bit more insulation piled up, but still no appreciable air sealing to be found.  Our basement slab is exposed on all sides, so it deftly transfers heat out of our home and brings the cold right in under your feet, mmmm, nice feeling.  Newer foundations are only marginally insulated on the edges, but most often still have no continuous thermal break, so will be a huge net heat loser.

Frost on your windows is a charming story book touch, but it is a sign that your windows are not holding much heat in. Single panes are a real pain and are hopeless in the heat race.  Newer builder grad double panes help, but they are often poorly made and will leak.  Moreover, they do not have low-e coatings, gas fillers, and/or properly insulated frames. Result = Chilly.

Even firing up your fireplace can be a losing proposition.  If your fireplace doesn’t use outside air for combustion, it will draw in warm air to burn, creating a vacuum which sucks in cold air through all of the cracks in the home.  Real bummer to light a fire in the house only to be a net loser.

Typical New HomePassive House StandardAcre Home
Wall R-ValueR-13 (actual is approx.-R-9)R-40+R-48
Roof R-ValueR-38R-60+R-60
Air Changes (leakiness)1.5- 30.60.4
Typical Energy usage11,280 kWh7000 Max< 5400
Bill if all electric$1372$851$35*

*Estimated cost of fuel for short generator runs

Passive House standard pretty much requires a continuous wrap of insulation around all sides of the home. This offer both great insulation and more importantly, an air tight shell.  With that level of insulation, a PH home can be heated with a hair dryer.  For Acre homes, we plan on offering a small and extremely efficient wood stove that can heat the home with just a few pounds of wood, even in this weather.

I cannot tell you how much i am looking forward to the switch to and Acre home, it will be warmly welcomed!


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