Melissa Valgardson’s new home in Montgomery may not look all that different to the naked eye, but visit her basement and you’ll notice something missing – the furnace.
“Most of the time we can get away with a 1500 watt heater,” she said. “That’s basically a hairdryer.”
On really cold days – when the temperature dips to -30 – they have electric heaters on thermostats which keep the house warm.
Valgardson and her husband, both engineers, have been interested in energy efficient homebuilding technology. There’s lots of ways to go about it, but after much research they settled on passive house technology.
The idea, which originated in Germany, is to take insulation to the extreme. Her house is basically air tight, although a high quality air exchange system keeps the air fresh.
She said it seemed like the best technology to go with, because it focused on the first and most important of the three R’s – reduction.
Other homebuilders are working on net zero homes that produce more energy than they consume. A passive house focuses on eliminating the need for energy consumption in the first place.
“The easiest way to get to net zero is to build a passive house first,” she said. “First reduce what you need to use.”
There’s no single way to build a passive house, according to Rob Bernhardt, CEO of Passive House Canada. His not-for-profit organization promotes the technology, and is holding seminars in Calgary this week.