Interview 2: Living in a Passive House

Passive House The Artisans Group- North project

The North family hit the road running when they moved in, no time wasted with adding charm, life and vitality to their new home. As an observer, they live in this house as if they always have. I attended their huge gathering mentioned below, and was delighted by the fun and function of the house, somehow, there was even room for a dance party in the kitchen!

The above pictures were taken on painting day, the family selected a very fresh and fun two-tone green ensemble which is the truly the jewel of the neighborhood! I’ll post more photos soon, meanwhile enjoy this short interview with DT North… a new Passive House owner:

1. How long have you been in your new house?
Our family moved in 3 months ago.

2. Do you love it? Is it what you expected?
We do! The one thing about a custom built house I did not know is that the adjustment to living in the house is seamless. The house was designed around our needs, behaviors and patterns, so it’s been great. The house is light and bright very cheerful to live in.

3. How is family life in your new house?
Family life is good. Our 15 year old son and 10 year old daughter have their own space upstairs. Kim and I have our own space down stairs. The main rooms in the house are family friendly. The house design has great space to share or have privacy. We love the spaces! We have had people over and the open layout is perfect for entertaining. We, actually had a large celebration with 65 guests, flow and function was spot on, plenty of room for everyone to relax and have fun. We enjoy opening our home to friends and family.

4. Have you monitored your energy bills so far? If so, what have you discovered?
I don’t have much data yet and we were still dialing in the ventilation system to maximize comfort after we moved in, but, we have looked at our electric and gas use through the Puget Sound Energy (PSE) website. Our gas use (which was the larger of the two in our old house) was down quite a bit. We have a 62% decrease in energy in the first month. Keep in mind too that that is with a 1950 square foot house versus our prior house on the same lot that was 1200 square foot. I can’t wait to see the decrease percent in the winter months.

5. You’ve probably seen that PSE has requested a rate increase of 8% for electricity and 3% for gas for 2012, after increasing both of those rates just last year. How do future energy costs make you feel now that you live in a Passive House?
Well if you going to build a custom house, why wouldn’t you build a super energy efficient house? It just makes economic sense. I imagine that the prices will continue to rise in the coming years and we will be the benefactors of the investment in Passive House design.

6. Is the home performing in other ways to your expectations?
Our auxiliary heating system has not come on since we moved in (and most people still had heat coming on in early July on some days!). However, we have had pretty mild temperatures (in the low 50’s). Our old house used to run the heat when temperature was in the 50’s. Now we don’t. We do have to vent more than we thought. The solar gain is pretty impressive. But we open the windows and the stack effect (heat rises and vents through the upper windows) clears the warm air out in minutes. There have not been enough cold days yet to know how the passive performance is in cold weather. Again, next winter season should give us some more information.

7. What is the most notable difference between living in a Passive House vs. other homes you’ve lived in?
Mostly, it is having consistent temperature throughout the house. You know those times you get up early in the morning you expect to get your robe and slippers? No need in our house. The temperature is the same in the bedroom and by the back doors.

8. Can you tell a difference in the indoor air quality of your new home?
It’s still a little soon to tell. We have had windows open and dirt work going on outside for a while .

9. Knowing what you know now, would you still build a Passive House?
No question, we would. I wish all of the new homes being built required the stringent Passive House performance standards. With all of this talk of reducing our energy needs, it is amazing that the national dialog has not yet included simple solutions like having super tight, super insulated, efficient ventilation, super comfortable construction with minimal additional initial cost. Hopefully, with more people choosing Passive House design, it will become more mainstream.

10. As an early adopter of Passive House, what would you say to people who are considering having the Artisans Group design and build them a Passive House? Would you recommend a Passive House to someone looking to build a new home these days?
Absolutely! Whether you are building a custom built or a spec house, the people at the Artisans Group are high touch, highly competent professionals.