Passive Heat

Passive Heat

Carrie McBride
Jan 22, 2009

Do you live in a "passive house" (not to be confused with a passive-aggressive house)? Each year when we make our winter visit to mom's big, old, drafty house she makes a big deal about turning on the heat just for us (especially now that a young baby is a house guest). What if you didn't worry about the heating bills or the furnace breaking? What if you didn't even have a furnace?

A few weeks ago we read a fascinating article about "passive heat" and "passive houses" being pioneered in Germany. There are now about 15,000 of them mostly in Germany and Scandinavia. The basic idea is to recycle heat through a central ventilation system: "The warm air going out passes side by side with clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with 90 percent efficiency."

Where does the heat come from in the first place? The sun, body heat and appliances for starters. One homeowner estimates he uses about 1/20th of the heating energy his parents used in a same-sized house. Surprisingly, passive houses only cost about 6% more to build than a traditionally heated home.

Intrigued? Check out the full article in The New York Times.

(photo by Rolf Oeser for The New York Times)

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