Heat it with a hair dryer: ‘Passive homes’ on the rise in Vancouver

Click to play video: 'Vancouver getting aggressive with passive homes'
Vancouver getting aggressive with passive homes
WATCH ABOVE: They are so energy efficient, they don’t actually need a furnace. So-called “passive homes” are becoming more popular in Vancouver. Nadia Stewart finds out what that means – Nov 11, 2016

Imagine living in a home so energy efficient that you don’t need a furnace. Far from being a dream, these homes are already a reality in Vancouver – in fact, their popularity is on the rise.

They’re called ‘Passive Houses;’ homes that are energy efficient, strategically designed and meticulously built to maximize natural heat sources and reduce energy costs.

They’re so efficient they could be heated with a hair blow dryer.

Paul Lilley designs and builds these homes. He says demand has increased year-over-year, in part because of the cost-saving benefits.

“You can have utility bills as low as $300 a year to manage the heat in your home,” Lilley said.

From the outside in, the home is carefully sealed using special Gortex-like material and tape.

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“It keeps the home airtight, but also allows the home to breathe,” Lilley says of the insulation used. “The tape is used to seal the envelope and really capture that airtightness.”

As for the heating, Lilley says they rely on naturally generated heat and a Heat Recovery Ventilator, a specialized air exchange system that cleans the air, manages the air flow and maintains a steady temperature in the home.

“We use a lot of latent heat from the bodies in the house, showers, cooking, that sort of thing. Also, solar gains that you get as well,” he said.

Passive Homes are 90 per cent more energy efficient than a standard home. Lilley, who’s been building Passive Homes for about a decade in Vancouver, says it costs about 10 per cent more in terms of construction and material costs, but homeowners save in the long run.

The Passive Home concept has been around in Canada since about the late 1970s, but Vancouver has now become a hub for this kind of clean green design. In Canada, commercial and residential buildings account for nearly a quarter of our carbon pollution.

Karen Tam Wu, the Pembina Institute’s program director of building’s and urban solutions, says municipal and provincial policies are tackling that.

“Vancouver is putting in place policies for zero-emissions buildings, British Columbia’s declaring low-energy homes being the norm by 2032, Ontario has declared that they want to have zero-emissions homes by 2030. So, we’re really seeing a trend across Canada,” Wu said.

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Anyone looking for more information about passive homes is invited to attend an open house on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 3839 Ontario Street between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

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