What is a Passive House?

This definition is taken from the Passive House Institute US web page.

"A Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 90% of space heating costs, but also provides a uniquely terrific indoor air quality."

11 October 2013

105th Post – Ventilation study and meeting Dr. Feist

Greetings to all of my readers!  I am always saying, ”I love our home!”  What’s not to love, we only paid 20.00 dollars to heat our home last winter. This summer and our total electric bill each month is around 100.00.  Yes, it is more than last summer but we had two more people living with us.  Our daughter is home from college and she will live with us next year and a friend of hers from Switzerland had joined us to study English.  He was here until October.  So with six of us plus many of our children’s friends and our other son and his friends, our evenings can be very full.  Many nights we have had up to 12 for dinner.  Last July, we hosted our niece’s wedding shower and we had 30 people over for dinner. We were all on the deck having a blast. 

International Passive House Open House is coming 8 – 10 December 2013
Since you are at my blog you might want to find out more about Passive Buildings.  The owners of the homes/businesses have selected their own times and days that they will be open.  You will need to chick on the viewing opportunities and once that page appears go up to advance search.  I found this to be easier to narrow the PH buildings where you live.  Our home will be open on Sunday from 12:30 to 4:30 or 12:30 to 16:30.

WSU Ventilation Study Our home was in a ventilation study for super tight homes.  There were 30 homes in the study, all of the homes had some very technical equipment for 10 weeks and we monitored all different activity levels in our home.  Most of the other homes were passive type of homes but our home is different from all the rest because of our unique air system.  Our home not only cleans the air once coming in, but continually cleans it every hour and the air is pulled out in the kitchen and bathrooms, as I have explained before in post # 96

We will be interested in all the results when they come back, but we will not be able to share it until the case study has been published and than we will share it with my readers sometime in December 2013 or at the first of the year.  This is very interesting for us because we took the extra step with our air system that Ted designed

Meeting with Dr. Wolfgang Feist,
Director of Passive House Institute, Germany
We had a wonderful evening on 24 September 2013 with Dr. Feist at Earth Advantage in downtown Portland, Oregon, USA.  Here my husband and I are with Dr. Feist on the right, at the meet and greet portion of the evening.  He was interested in my blog because he said that it was wonderful that an average homeowner would take the time and write about Passive Homes and I have had over 47.000 hits. 
Later that night, there was a lecture by Dr. Feist. He showed slides and described how new designers/architects are pushing the envelopes with regards to the structures of building passive homes and buildings.  With new computer programs the buildings/designing process is becoming easier.  On the International PH Open House website above, you can look at all the different style of buildings, it’s great!

If you know of anyone thinking to build a home, have them look at my blog!

05 November 2012

104th Post– Fall/Autumn

#3 in the State of Oregon!

We knew that our home was rated #3 in the state of Oregon through Earth Advantage, but it is now out in their blog so we can share the news:
(It does take a time for it to upload)
or directly to our case study:

Our home was in the International open house November 9-11, 2012
For more information about PH in the  Pacific NW go to:
Each year some PH owners open their homes to the public to share what it is like to live in a PH.  It is always around the same date each year.

We have been busy this autumn.  We have built a shed and a cover for our intake air supply.  Last winter we had cold moist air streaming right towards the air intake.  At one point it became frosted and hardly any air was coming in, so we built a covering for it.  I told my husband it looks like a doghouse.(In back of the blue tarp)  The east side is open to allow air to come in.  But I had to find a screen from the old house and fit it in.  We have skunks around here and I don’t want them to think we have built them a nice home by our intake air! 


Ok, I have to tell you what to look out for in homes being built even now.  My friend just bought a new home, it does look nice but she asked me later, what is that?  It was the return air vent for THE house!  It was at least 2’ X 4’ on the living room wall.  She said I want to find something to cover it up.  I told her that it is the return air vent that brings all the air back to her heater (HVAC) and she really shouldn’t cover it up.  There are just two return air vents one one each level. This builder was trying to cut corners and costs by not putting in more return ductwork.  The house will be more drafty and noisy, especially in the living room.
In our home, every room has a supply and a return vent. Bathrooms and kitchen vent the air directly outside!  This way our rooms have fresh clean air and the old air is taken away. Read more below
Did you know that 15% to 20% of your heating and cooling does not even make it into your home?  Sealing the seams on your duct system will give that much more heat and air.  The article above addresses this issue. 

Natural disasters are really hard on everyone in the area.  But one could hope that when rebuilding people would build the right way, like PH.  Not like the house my friend bought.  Would be builders, be nice and don’t take advantage or use short cuts of those who lost their homes!  Those of you, who lost your homes, make sure you are diligent and do your research.  I know this may be an overwhelming time but keep your guard up and good luck!

07 September 2012

103rd Post – Summer time

Summer Update

Someone asked if I was paid to blog about our home…No, I wrote this because I couldn’t find a blog that had specific information about PH!  Other blogs gave pictures but not details that we wanted to have.  So, I am trying to write information that we would have loved to have before we started on this journey.  I thought that I would continue to give updates about our home.
Enlarge and count the bees on the artichoke flower
Enlarge and find something on the hydrangea

This summer we have been working on some of the yard, trying to finish the areas we started last year.  Here are some pictures of what it looks like now.  Inside not much more has been done, but our home has seen a houseful of guest and family.  Lots of Barbecues and nice evening!

Last summer, we where having issues with the overhangs/eves and heat gain windows since the sun was coming in our home.  So we put up some blinds outside by Coolaroo which blocks 90% UV ray out of our home and drastically reduced the temperature inside our home this summer by 10F to even 20F degrees.  The highest inside temperature was 79F with the outside being over 100F for a week.  Most of the time our home stayed in the low 70F this summer, very comfortable.
Produce from our garden
The blueberry I just froze
Our garden

Since we have put up our solar panels we have seen a drop in our electric bill by close to 70%.  I did have a question if we have a dryer, yes we do.  In the summer I hang out our close most of the time but because we live in the west it is very wet.  It drizzles or rain 90% of the time, fall, winter and spring, (yes, we do have duck feet) and it would take days for clothes to dry.  Plus it would add humidity to our home and we don’t want to have that issue.  We have a humidity meter and try to keep our home in the 40%.
During the last six months we have generated with our 3.2 kWh solar system; 2.553 kWh of electricity.

Be Blue-Protect our sky and land-Use refillable bottles- don’t buy water in plastic bottles!!!  It takes 400 to 700 years to decompose the plastic.  So, if you throw just one bottle away and it was not recycled your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren will have to deal with that one bottle!  If that doesn’t stop you think about the cost of gas. Gas?  Would you like to pay $8.00 a gallon?  When you buy a small water bottle for $1.00 you are paying $8.00 a gallon for water.  Check out the site below!


23 May 2012

102nd Post – First Year!

Energy use of our home

I can’t believe that we have been living in our home for over a year.  We have been so busy that this year has really gone quickly. 
Energy use:
I want to show the amount of energy we use consumed and compared to the energy we use today.

April 2010        1925 house we use to live in on the same property                 
                     102.1 Therms of natural gas
                     502kWh of electricity
Total cost              188.68$

April. 2011       PH house without solar - everything runs on electricity
                  No natural gas = no Therms
                     We paid 0$ for pellets for heating this month
                     1083kWH of electricity
Total cost              116.00
April. 2012      PH house with solar – again everything in our home runs on electricity
                  No natural gas = no Therms
                     We paid 0$ for pellets for heating this month
                     815kWh of electricity
Total cost              90.16

We had a total of 9 sunny or partly sunny days in April.  This means that our solar system should produce more in the days to come.

The last two winter, in our new home, we paid 15.00$ for wood pellets to heat our home.  Three bags for each year!

What would we change in our home?
We I love our home!  So it is very hard to examine anything I would change it seems to come down to money and the budget.  That said here are a couple of small things:
When we had our kitchen made I had a lift up spring cabinet for a mixer.  The professional mixer is a little too tall for the standard opening and now I have to pull the mixer forward to operate the spring lift.  I would have also had the island move a little further back for clearance.  Below is the picture.
I would have had the deck bigger like in our plans but the budget wouldn’t allow it.
I would have had the eves on the south at 4’ or 61cm.  We will be putting up a pergola this summer with sun cloth to shade our house and deck this spring.
I wish we would have place a doublewide driveway into our garage, again the budget was a factor. One car sits on the street so we can put the car in and out of the garage. We do have two cars but my husband rides his bike to work and I work at home doing art, so the cars are resting for the most part.
We have had some problems with our air system.  There was a bad batch of motors that went out and a computer board.  We are hoping that all of this is solved!  Perfect Climate is so great!  We wouldn’t have anyone else!  If you live in the Portland Oregon area, I highly recommend Perfect Climate; they are in the building contact list.  Ultimate Air has been good about sending new parts and standing behind their product, I just wish it they could have all the bugs out before sending the system to clients.
I hope that this information updates what has been happening around here.  I have some more information on remolding home into passive home for the next blog.

Be Blue – Protect the sky -  Start growing plants today.

12 January 2012

101st Post – Solar Panels

Solar panels!
Last week, solar panels were installed.   A 3.2watt panel, that is to produce 3,200 kilowatts of electricity.  This should produce about ½ of our total electrical consumption.  We will update everyone on the totals once they start to come in.  In the US, the federal government and each state can put money into projects that are helpful to communities.  This is one way the taxes that we pay replays the citizens.   So with the special deal from SunRun we will pay 6,000 upfront but get that back in state rebates in four years! YA!  It is a rental program, which allows you to rent the panel for 20 years and at the end either buy it from SunRun, Inc. or have it removed.  So this definitely is a win, win program.  We will end up paying Nothing - $0 for our solar power!  

You need a couple things:
     1.  The roof needs a sun exposure without interference from trees or part of the property.  Don’t forget your garage, shed or land.
     2.  A newer roof that doesn’t need to be replaced for the life of the solar system-20 years.
      3. Money to have it put on.  So if you’re refinancing with the lower interest rates, you can add solar! 
Each state is different with rebates.  SunRun Inc. works with other solar disturbers.  It doesn’t cost anything to call and figures out if you qualify for this great program. 
Grant Lindsley
RS Energy, LLC
(503) 752-2885
So if you have ever thought of having solar, call and ask them questions.  When you call Grant tell him that you read it on my blog.  I told him that I have a lot of people reading.  He will get a kick out of it!

Ok, I can’t let the article from the New York Times go by without commenting about it. (The article appeared in print on December 4, 2011, on page RE1 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Zero-Energy’ Construction Crosses the Ocean. by Alison Gregor)   First and foremost, Passive Homes can be net zero homes but that is not what these homes are about.  We are trying to use as little resources as possible once the home is completed.  Even with our solar panels on we won’t be totally a net zero home.  We will be close to net zero but we will still use electricity.  Our water comes from the city that uses electricity to bring it to our home and so on.  We can do the best to use little electricity but there are very few homes that can be a true net zero.  Secondly, to say that PH doesn’t use carbon day to day is nonsense.  Even here in Oregon State we receive 60% of electricity from renewable energy – hydroelectric and wind.  The other 40% comes from coal!  On the east coast the electricity comes from nuclear or from coal.  The electricity has to come from somewhere and it produces a carbon footprint.   Thirdly, is that we were able to find all of the product made here in the US and didn’t have to use fossil fuel to bring them overseas.  We researched our home for three years and our PH designer also did a lot of research.  It can be done, but you must do the leg/ computer work to make it happen.  Ted Nickell our designer, I think had a lot of fun figuring things out.  So ask questions and we will try to answer them or send you to a good resource. 
If you are considering building a passive home, remember that you may again need to do research.  Your contractor may or may not know the information needed to build this type of home.  If you want to save money, I mean thousands!!!! It is best that you do your own research and know what you want and where you can get the products.  We did research for three years and are very glad we did.  We ended up saving close to 50,000!

Rant and Rave - Solar power is something that much of our world should be using! Could you imagine if Arizona put fields of the solar panels up, like fields of wheat?  Or Greece could eliminate their countries money plight, by producing solar energy for the rest of Europe?  Africa could run wells and heat stoves so women and girls wouldn’t have to hunt for water or wood for fires to be raped and even killed.  So on and so fourth…you get the idea!  Now, we need everyone to work together to find a way to store this energy!  I have said it before and I will say it again…come on you bright people, create a way to store solar, wind and hydroelectric power!!!!!!!  Stop relying on an 1800’s way to send electricity…it is antiquated!

OK, advise - take it or leave it…Direction of home for solar panels.  The sun rises in the east and will have morning clouds, so to receive the most solar benefit (is after 1:00pm in Oregon State).  The best roof direction would be SSW to SW would give more watts of solar (in Oregon).
Work with a great Heating / Mechanical / HRVs installers, ours was Perfect Climate (they are in the contact list). They can help design a system that your architect may not have thought about.  This is a way to research by asking others.  One of the best things we did was to have a meeting with all the subs, builder and architect to be on the same page and to work out any issues.

Be Blue – Protect our sky – Call today to find out how much solar really costs and the options.  Remember we are renting the solar unit or you can buy the panels.  Make it your New Years Resolution! 

03 December 2011

100th Post – Fall 2011

What been happening? 
I will now give my readers updates every season or so.  This is our fall update.  It is also special because it is my 100th post!

I’m moving the yard design heading above into the body of the text, since I will up date four times a year. So if you already read these next two paragraphs-sorry.

I must ask that people plant native plants!!!!!!
There are several reasons:
Native plants will grow easier and will be healthier because it is their native soil and climent
Using little or no fertilizers
They support native bugs that feeds our native bird population
The non-native plants does not support native bugs or birds life-chain of life
If you have seen an increase in crows it is because the native birds are not thriving in your area!  Crows will take over when they have the chance.
Raised bed in May

Raised beds with covers

Our yard will have very little lawn (which is a grassy area that is cut and watered).   Lawns use a lot of water that could be used to water eatable plants.  We will be having mostly raised beds to grow food.  I found a great web site that has videos that give you step by steps ways to grow food to be sustainable and reduce your carbon footprint on our planet.

The grass and blueberry plants in October
Garden/Yard – Here are some pictures that show you how well our yard and garden are growing.  We had an exceptional crop of produce this year.  I didn’t even take any pictures of our garden…sorry.  Next spring I will take pictures and share them with everyone.
Rain garden in October

This is a picture of our rain garden.  I planted some native flower seeds and the entire area was bursting with blooms and birds this summer.  It was beautiful!  This is where the rainwater will be fed to that comes from our home’s roof.  The plants will filter the water impurities before it travels to the water table.

The house – This summer, I complained about the heat in the house and the ventilation system didn’t seem to bring in the cool night air like it was designed to.  Well, when my husband and sons were cleaning out and changing the filters down in the ventilation system he found another switch for the controls.  OPPS!  We thought we needed to just turn the switch on the wall in the closest to adjust the controls.  Now we know what we did wrong and we will be able to fine-tune our ventilation system for living conditions next summer.

This fall, Oregon has had record rain fall for the first two months and now it is cold and sunny.  We have turned on our pellet stove twice and otherwise we have had no heat on in our home!  It has been very comfortable.

26 September 2011

99th Post – Summer

Sun and heat gain windows

I’m back!  Summer took me outside to the yard and family fun plus I had computer issues.
When we built our home the plan was 4f/121cm eves to help with the sun but the computer model indicated that we needed only half of what we wanted.  We ended up putting 3f/91cm.
In June, the sun was only coming in just 5”/12cm in the windows.   In July the eves were a good length.  But at the end of August, with 90f/32c and a couple weeks of 100f/37c days of heat, the sun was coming into our home through the heat gain windows about 18”/45cm and September the sun has come in even more.  Yes, our home did heat up more than we expected about 80f/26c.  
We wish we would had insisted on the 4f/121cm eves.  Because the hottest days are almost always the end of August.
Next year, we plan on adding a pergola or an awning, to prevent the sun coming in the windows on the south side over the deck. 
We haven’t planted any bushes or trees around the house to help shade our home.  We needed to wait until fall so we wouldn’t have to water them.  So the research is on, for native trees that won’t grow so tall to interfere with solar panels we plan on installing in the future.

So here is what our house looks like with a yard in the back.  Check out my yard/garden design information, more is posted.

We have been tracking our electrical use and have found we have some sort of electrical leak. The hunt is on for the culprit.  The tracking was originally designed to help us figure out how big of a solar grid that we would need for our home. 

Be Blue – Protect our sky – Compost!  Reduce the waste that goes into the landfills and helps your garden at the same time.