So-called “passive homes” typically are associated with Europe, where the concept of building super-insulated, airtight, energy-efficient homes has caught on. Although originally a product of the U.S. during the 1970’s energy crisis, passive homes haven’t really caught on yet in America – home to fewer than 100 of the estimated 20,000 passive houses that have been built worldwide.
But that seems to be changing, particularly in such Northeastern states as Pennsylvania and New York. Companies there aren’t just building new energy-efficient passive homes, they’re retrofitting older buildings to become “passive.”
The goal is to construct or renovate homes that create nearly as much energy as they consume. Built within airtight, super-insulated thermal envelopes, the homes are designed to reduce energy use by 90 percent. As home energy costs rise, passive homes are expected to gain more and more followers here in the U.S.
Currently, its costs about five to 10 percent more to build a passive home than a traditional one, largely because the windows and other material used in them aren’t mass-produced. Yet. Prices are expected to fall as the material needed become more widely available.
Fortis College has its own version of a passive home. The Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) department at the Salt Lake City campus utilizes a process that harnesses residential attic heat to provide free space heating for its Test Home. Rather than let attic heat escape, it’s being directed back into the home to heat it in winter or heat the hot water heater in summer. The Fortis system can reduce fossil fuel usage by 50% on sunny days.
In addition to the manner in which they’re constructed, passive homes of the future will rely on new approaches such as this to further reduce energy demands. And that translates into a need for HVAC professionals who are trained in the latest heating and cooling technology. Visit www.fortis.edu to learn more about the latest trends in HVAC training and how you can prepare to keep your cool in a hot new career.