Central Germany is cold — very cold. Yet a growing number of passive thermal houses are being built that require no furnace at all to keep their inhabitants comfortable all winter long. No, not another Earthship, just some rather sound, sensible improvements
For starters, the builders take advantage of the high-quality insulation available today. Add windows that are made for heat to stay in and cold to stay out, doors that are truly sealed. What you end up with is a nearly hermetically sealed box — and here’s the big exception: Previous attempts at this maintained temperatures, but were musty and humid, due to stagnant air. Today’s passive houses are employing a heat exchange. Fresh air is brought in alongside the hot air going out, warming it as it does so, greatly reducing the heat loss due to ventilation. Viola! A comfy home that is so energy-efficient, you can actually raise the interior temperature by the inhabitants’ body heat!
Great, but how many millions of dollars does it cost? Water heaters and other such devices all contribute to the overall temperature within the home. Some of these parts, such as the windows and heat exchange, are not made in the U.S. and must be imported, adding to the cost. Those differences aside, insulating and sealing a house this well only adds about 5 percent to the construction costs! In short, by planning well, constructing wisely, and limiting yourself to about 500 square feet per person, you can have a very affordable home and nearly no heating bills, for very little money.
Isn’t it great to see people applying themselves to the problems, and solving them? We’re glad to see Germany going Green, and look forward to seeing more houses like these all over the planet!