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Heat your New Home with a Hair Dryer

Did you know that it’s possible to save 90% of typical home energy costs?  Passive House, the most stringent energy standard in building construction, enables you to build a cheaper, more comfortable, healthier and safer home that requires only 10% of typical energy use.  A PH Building is  heated with the heat gains from appliances, the occupants’ body heat, cooking, bathing, TV and computer heat gains etc., but for those really cold snaps less than the heat produced by a hair dryer can make up the difference.  You don’t need a furnace, woodstove, heated floor, or boiler.  In fact, you could use an actual hair dryer, or bake a cake, or cook a pizza, or have a party, and the waste heat from that one event would make your house as cozy and warm as you could desire for days of sub-zero temps without sunshine.

Not to be confused with Passive Solar, Passive House is a construction method that uses super-insulation, sunward positioning of high performance windows, sealing against air leakage, and controlled air exchange to create a highly energy-efficient building.  There are tens of thousands of these buildings in existence around the world, including a few homes right here in Vermont.  And, there is a technique called “EnerPHit” that can perform a Passive House-level retrofit to an existing building.

To explore the latest technology in building design and retrofitting, join experts in the field and see the latest products at the second annual Passive House Symposium on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Vermont Technical College, Randolph.  For more information or to register go to

Watch this space next week for another installment about the symposium.



2 comments to Heat your New Home with a Hair Dryer

  • This Passive house construction method seems well-suited if you have a house with plenty of surrounding property but not so well-suited for home construction in a half-acre lot development. After all, is under development you don’t have the luxury of always be able to build the house with sunward positioning.

  • Sunward positioning is not required, only suggested. Bldg. to the PH std. is possible w/o much in the way of available direct sunlight. And even if one cannot meet the underlying std. of PH, the tools provided by the methodology will allow one to build the most efficient & comfortable home possible given the siting & local code requirements.

    PH is a verifiable engineering std. that allows one to accurately estimate the effects of the bldg. design decisions one makes well before any site work even begins. Like any other bldg. code, it describes the worst bldg. one can build & still meet the std., but with the tools encompassed w/in PH it will also permit one to reach for the sky regarding energy performance & air quality. As always, legal & financial constraints might thwart a full realization of the possibilities of any bldg. endeavor, but the PH tools (primarily the PHPP & the blower door test) allow one to plan a house that will actually do what one hoped it would do from the outset. In fact, just like playing around w/ a mortgage table spreadsheet, one can try out changes in the PHPP (say changing the size of the living room window, or the amount of insulation in the attic) & immediately see how those options will change the bldg.’s performance through the year in the particular climate of the actual location.

    So, while PH sounds like a final goal, it’s real value is in the scientific, verifiable process it brings to what was once an art. (E.g., auto body work is an art; auto engine design is an engineering science.) We didn’t have a way to be really scientific in construction until recently. Instead we, as homeowners, put in our 2 cents regarding looks & then depended upon the honesty, experience, & knowledge of which ever bldg. team we happened to choose – w/ widely (wildly?) varying performance results in the end product. Now, w/ the availability of strictly defined measures of performance (energy use, air leakage testing throughout the bldg. process, etc.) we can actually measure aspects of the final result that we were heretofore only able to describe as feelings & hunches.

    Sorry about the brain dump; just can’t help myself…. G

    – PH Explained in 90secs.:
    – PH Revolution Trailer:
    – New VT PH movie:

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