Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS A GREEN BUILDING?
“Green” refers to buildings that are very energy efficient, use natural resources that are renewable, don’t damage the environment and don’t make people sick. There are many choices involved in building Green. some are related to energy efficiency of the home, some with materials affecting indoor air quality, use of sustainable materials or conservation of natural resources.
WHAT ARE SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS AND PRODUCTS?
Sustainable materials and products are made from renewable resources which don’t damage our environment, won’t make people sick, are long lasting in the home, and when they are eventually removed, are reusable. Many of today’s health problems come from or are aggravated by poor indoor air quality and exposure to toxic substances, the result of commonly used building techniques and building products. Green products and methods are designed to minimize or eliminate these problems.
ARE PASSIVE HOUSE HOMES EXPENSIVE?
Achieving the Passive House standard does add to the initial cost, but that is partially offset by eliminating the standard heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) mechanical system. Over the life of the house, the operating costs should be far less than a home built to current codes. These cost savings last indefinitely, even as fuel costs rise year after year. Increased construction costs have been estimated at 10-15%, but that will vary with the actual design. These initial investments are typically recouped within a few years, and then year-after-year the Passive House saves money because it is nearly energy independent.
ARE PASSIVE HOUSE TECHNIQUES USED ONLY FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION?
Absolutely not – Passive House techniques can be used on additions and renovations to existing homes.
SHOULD HOUSES BREATHE? CAN THE TIGHT CONSTRUCTION LEAD TO AIR QUALITY AND MOISTURE PROBLEMS?
Many new homes today are being built tightly in an improper fashion, trapping moisture inside and leading to significant mold and indoor air quality problems. Passive House are designed to be continuously ventilated through the use of a balanced Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) which assures superior air quality and comfort by continuously exchanging interior air. Excess moisture is safely removed along with potentially harmful pollutants. While the air is exchanged, the heat from the outgoing air is used to heat the incoming air, so you don’t have freezing air coming in. These systems have been praised by those who suffer from allergies and asthma. The system runs quietly 24 hours a day, replenishing the interior air volume many times daily without affecting heating.
IS RADON A PROBLEM?
Because Passive House are built so tight, the entry of radon is prevented as much as possible. Nevertheless we always install a passive radon vent which vents through the roof. Beyond that, any possible infiltration is met by our balanced ventilation system.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC TENETS OF A GREEN HOME?
Initial and long term costs and/or savings – Many of the materials used, such as framing lumber are traditional building materials. Other newer and greener materials are available for close to the same cost. Increased levels of Insulation and more efficient windows will typically cost more up front, but will save heating and cooling costs for the long term.
The difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation – Energy conservation includes methods to decrease the energy needed to run the home. This can be as simple as turning off the power to TVs and computers when they are not being used, using compact fluorescent bulbs or increasing insulation levels. Energy efficient equipment uses less energy to get the same result. Newer Energy star appliances, furnaces and boilers are more efficient than older models. A Green home should be much more energy efficient and utilize many conservation methods and technologies.
Energy savings – Buildings, both residential and commercial are the largest users of energy in the country; using 47% of all the energy we produce and import. We know we can reduce these loads by 50% or more without affecting our quality of life. Reduced energy through both conservation and increased efficiency is vital to our national security and to our economy.
“The cheapest energy is energy that isn’t used.”
- The planet must stop burning fossil fuels and convert to 100% renewable energy. Fortunately as of 2020, renewable energy is the lowest cost energy on the planet; we will save money by converting! We use Air Source Heat Pumps in our homes and renovations. This heat pump technology runs on electricity and, because the electricity is used to power a pump, rather than being “burned”, it is up to 300% efficient; far higher than any fossil fuel system.
- Geothermal heat pumps which remove the heat from well water or soil to heat your home. Air to air heat pumps (an air conditioner is an air to air heat pump) can now be used as a heating source in New England. These units can generate heat from air that is 20 degrees below zero.
- Heat pump water heaters are available using the same technology to heat your water.
- Well pumps used to turn on when pressure was low and off when pressure reached a certain level; new variable speed pumps maintain a constant pressure and produce less wear on the motor and use less electricity.
- Ventilation equipment which removes heat from stale outgoing air and transfers that heat to fresh incoming air.
- Solar hot water heaters now are proven to pay for themselves in five years or less and reduce water heating costs even in New England.