Posts Tagged ‘passive house’

The R House: even the best intentions can use a little home performance

November 22, 2011

Our very own Maggie Mauer form the Syracuse branch of GreenHomes America was recently featured in a Syracuse article on the R House  that she now calls home.  The R-House as it is called is a result of a design competition by local non-profit and University groups.

The home was built to Passivhaus standards.  Very little heat is needed since it is so well insulated, and in Syracuse NY that is impressive.     Passivhaus is an extreme example (and typically applied to new construction) of what we do with homes everyday: excellent insulation and air-sealing, reducing the heating loads, and controlling ventilation.  

Maggie’s house was designed to include big windows which allows for the sun to heat the space quite well.  It’s called passive solar and has been worked into design for many years…and is the reason you can usually find a cat sitting in a window on a sunny day.  But in the R-House there was one oversight, those big windows help in the winter but It sure gets hot in the summer.  Unbearably hot.  

Home Performance can be needed even for high performers.  To keep it cool, we installed a ductless mini split to air condition the space in the summer time, maybe not the usual approach, but it’s an unusual home!

There were a few other design and installation details that we had to correct, including a heating system that didn’t really shut off fully, inefficient lighting, and some leaky doors that allowed the cold winter winds to whistle through.  And this is an award-winning house! 

This goes to show, the the details matter.  A lot!  And it highlights why we’re called out not just to fix 100 year old homes, but those that are only a year or two old, too.  (Maybe the should have called us in during the construction phase to help get it right the first time!)

photo from

NY Times on the “Passive House”

May 1, 2009

Today’s NY Times discusses how new homes in Europe are constructed to be very comfortable and energy-efficienct. We can build them that way in North America, too. And, although harder, we can do similar things with existing homes, too.


Green is a comfortable color!

January 27, 2009

As this story about “Passive Houses” in the New York Times reports, energy-efficiency isn’t about freezing in the dark.  Done right, improving the energy-efficiency of homes makes them healthier, safer, and more comfortable.  Oh yeah—and they cost a lot less to operate!  The Canadians and northern Europeans have been looking at this a long time.  Germany—which is further north and has colder winters than most of the United States—is well ahead of us in solar electric and solar hot water.


But we’ve got some innovate approaches to improving existing homes—and now other countries are looking to us, and we’re learning from each other.  This is good news for anyone who wants to spend less on energy and be more comfortable at the same time.



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