Your Guide To Passive House Renovating

Are the energy bills in your older home too high? Are you looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint? If you’re familiar with the concept of passive house design, you’ve likely considered what it would take to have your current home meet the standards of becoming a Passive House.

How Can I Renovate My Home To Get to the Passive Home Standard?

passive house design

Almost all homes can apply passive elements during a renovation to achieve greatly increased energy efficiency. Even if the renovation doesn’t achieve the Passive House Standard, one will still unlock the benefits of a more efficient, hyper insulated home.

If you’re considering increasing the efficiency of your home through passive design, we recommend working with passive home consultants. They will be able identify which passive home elements will be best suited for your renovation. Here are some examples of areas that could be upgraded in order to seal your home and increase its overall energy efficiency.

1. Heat recovery ventilation (HRV)

HRV systems allow for fresh air to be brought into an insulated home while minimizing heat loss. With a traditional HVAC system, when air is expelled from your home, any heat it contained is also lost. This means that your heating system has to work harder to replace that heat. An HRV system transfers heat from the air being expelled into the air being taken in to your home. This means that the heat in your home is preserved and your heater won’t have to work as hard, saving you energy.

This option is ideal for newer homes that are built more airtight. This is likely not the most effective option for older homes where interior air is leaking out of several locations.

An HRV system can be added to your existing HVAC system or added as a standalone system.

solar orientation passive home2. Solar Orientation

How a house is oriented to the sun has a dramatic impact on heating and cooling costs. It’s important that windows are positioned in a way to use up as much free energy from the Sun as possible. If possible, expanding the surface area of South and East windows and decreasing the size of or removing any North-facing windows will allow for optimal heating. If you’re renovation involves changing the roof or windows of your home, this is a good opportunity to reorient your windows to take advantage of solar heating.

3. Passive house windows

Upgrading to triple glazed windows with highly insulated frames will prevent a significant amount of heat loss. These windows also work to reduce condensation, allowing you to maintain a higher level of humidity in the colder months. These windows will have the biggest payoff when replacing a homes larger North-facing windows as these windows will be able to retain heat better.

Upgrading a homes windows is one of the best “all around” ways to improve the efficiency of your home. Almost all homes will see a benefit from upgrading to triple glazed windows.

thermal bridging passive home

4. Becoming Thermal Bridge-Free

A thermal bridge is an area of your home where heat or cold can transfer easily from the outside to the inside of a home. They are most common in the corners of a home, where insulation is thinner. Thermal bridges are responsible for a large amount of temperature loss in most homes, they operate as an “highway” for heat to exit a home. Thermal bridge free design involves the application of insulation without any “weak spots” around the whole building. This method eliminates cold corners, prevents excessive heat losses, and prevents damage from moisture build up.

Eliminating thermal bridges during a renovation can have a large impact in the overall efficiency of your home. We recommend working with an experienced designer or a passive home consultant to identify any thermal bridges in your home.

5. Exterior Insulation

Updating exterior insulation can be done by expanding the thickness of exterior walls. A High-rise building in Hamilton did this and saw a 6x reduction in heating costs just by incorporating this passive element. If you are planning on redoing the exterior of your home during a renovation, this is a great opportunity to improve the insulation. On average, adding passive home insulation will only add 10% to your construction costs, but it will allow you to reap huge rewards in energy savings.

6. Recirculating appliances

Recirculating appliances do not vent to the exterior of your home. That means that any heat they generate can be preserved and used to heat the rest of your home. Consider changing to ventless appliances such as dryers and range hoods. These upgrades are becoming more commonplace and the price difference between ventless appliances and vented appliances has become marginal.