WRITTEN BY: LOUISE BROWNLEE
Since last March our homes have become multi-purpose – our office, gym, our everything. Money that was spent on restaurants, commuting, travelling etc is now going toward making the family home a little more comfortable. Meet two local families who have chosen to maximize energy efficiency by building to the Passive House standard.
If you want to join these trailblazing Halton families, why not look at the opportunities to do a Passive House retrofit or build? A Passive House is a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in buildings that reduces a building’s operational energy footprint. This standard reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 50% – 70% or more. It is mandatory for all new public-private and public buildings in the European Union but is voluntary in Canada where energy is cheaper.
It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling. Building codes in Canada are planning a gradual incremental change, of 7 or 8% improvement in energy efficiency every 5 years. The Passive House standard is ahead of the Ontario Building Code at this time. But the code will catch up at some point in the future because of the benefits outlined in the stories that follow.
Hart and Daniela
Hart and Daniela Jansson built a Passive House in 2013. Hart kindly created a video that you can view on HEN’s youtube channel. Hart explains in detail how his house was built.The bottom line is:
● Their energy-efficient home is the most comfortable
the home they have ever lived in.
● Their house has no furnace or conventional air conditioning system. It is inexpensive to heat or cools their home and they never have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning since they don’t need a gas line.
• they have an energy-recovery ventilation system that brings fresh air into the house 24 hours/day. With a conventional furnace, you are breathing in more recycled air than in a Passive House.
• Because of their triple-paned windows and thick walls, they are not disturbed by sounds on the street or the neighbours having a party. They enjoy the peace and quiet of their home – acoustic comfort.
• Hart estimates that their home releases 1/8 of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the average home in Oakville. Hart adds that there are five passive homes in Oakville and another is being built.
Hart and Daniela don’t just talk about climate change commitment – their lifestyle choices reflect their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They shared a few more eco-tips for
• They have installed tinted windows to lower heat transfer in the summer.
•They purchased an induction stove, electric stoves that use magnetic technology. While induction cooktops still use electricity to produce the electromagnetic field, they draw much less energy than electric coil or hotplate cooktops or ceramic cooktops. Gas cooktops are popular now but will eventually be a stranded asset as communities transition from fossil fuels to green energy such as clean electricity from renewable sources. Hart would like to see the installation of new natural gas furnaces banned in Oakville in the medium term.
Electrifying our homes and moving to clean energy is part of the planet’s transition away from fossil fuels. The Janssons are delighted with their home and it operates almost entirely without fossil fuels.
Passive Homes are more expensive to build in terms of upfront costs. This cost varies but the investment pays off over time given the much lower operational costs.
Ed and Lucy
Ed is the owner and operator of Passive House Ontario. He is a Passive House specialist based in Oakville who consulted on Hart and Daniela Jansson’s home build to help it meet their Passive House goals. In 2009, Ed and Lucy decided to use their existing home as a training project for Passive House design and construction. Visit Ed’s website to enjoy the step-by-step story of his home build.
The first thing you notice when you visit the Marion’s is how comfortable the home is – no drafts even by the windows. The thick insulated walls of the home give the homeowner lovely wide window ledges which could be used as window seats.
Passive Houses are designed to minimize heat loss. The ventilation system that supplies fresh air 24/7 is equipped with a heat recovery system that recovers energy from the outgoing stale air and transfers it to the incoming fresh air. This minimizes the work that the space heating/cooling system has to do.
Investing in energy efficiency enhances the value of your home
The Janssons and Marions are excellent role models for Halton residents. HEN encourages Halton residents to get on the retrofit bandwagon. Improving your home’s energy efficiency will save you money and make your home a healthier and more comfortable space for your family.
Through Enbridge, rebates of up to $5000 are available for improving your home’s energy efficiency. You can book your first appointment now, after this current lockdown. The federal climate plan announced last year will provide homeowners with up to $5,000 in grants and one million free EnerGuide assessments to make their homes more energy efficient but details may not be available until the summer.
The EnerGuide assessments will begin with an Energuide Home Energy Evaluation. The Energuide consultant will inspect your home and provide a customized action plan to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
You can use the energy rebates to reduce your ongoing maintenance costs with the following actions:
• Seal air leaks and add insulation to make sure your home is airtight. Heating is the home’s largest energy expense so reducing heat loss will save you money.
• Improve your heating and cooling system. Furnaces and air conditioners lose their efficiency over time. Updating to a more efficient system is a good investment. Heat pumps are an attractive option used by both families HEN has profiled below. Hybrid heat pumps that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 to 80% can be installed for about $5,000; your existing gas furnace and ducting remain in place. (For example, see the Hybrid heat pump link at www.jadeenvironmentalservices.com )
• Replace old windows to prevent heat loss
• Upgade the water heating system
• Invest in ENERGYSTAR appliances and lighting
Improving your home’s energy efficiency is one of the best investments you can make paying tax-free dividends immediately. And your home will be an even cozier refuge during this challenging time.