In High-Performance homes everything is interrelated

Craig Modisher,  Senior Construction Coordinator

Craig Modisher,

Senior Construction Coordinator

There has been a needed focus on energy efficiency in our built environment lately.  Many of the strategies being used lead to very insulated and very tight buildings. Kind of like wearing insulated coveralls (any farmers know what I am talking about). 

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In many cases, this changes how we need to think about our buildings, and sometimes how we need to interact with these structures.  Tight buildings or high occupancy buildings typically need mechanical ventilation, such as an HRV or ERV.  These systems are more energy efficient than an exhaust only system (think continuously running bath fans).  They act like the lungs of the building. Just like your lungs, the air pressure in a tight house needs to be balanced, and doesn’t react well to sudden forces interrupting that balance, like a dryer venting out 200CFM.  For this reason, sometimes people have to rethink how they interact with their house. Just like getting a new pet, it may take a little time for people to get used to interacting with their new home. A condensing dryer (ventless) helps deal with the air balance issue.  That way your wood stove won’t backdraft when you turn the dryer on.

Similarly, making a house more energy efficient may change the heating system.  Older conventional houses needed the BTU output of a combustion heating system, either a furnace or boiler.  Many high efficiency homes these days can operate with an air source heat pump (yes, they work in our cold weather). 

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Better windows, in these efficient homes, allow you to have your heat source anywhere, not just under the windows.  This opens up the possibilities of furniture layout, as seen in the adjoining picture, with the wall mounted heat pump above the office space.  The air source heat pumps allow you to have an all electric house, which means you are one step away from being net zero energy.  Install or lease some PV solar panels and you are producing as much energy as you use every year.

All the systems (including the people) work together in these homes, to give the occupants a different, and usually better living experience than they may have gotten used to over the years.