Passivhaus homes are extremely well insulated which makes it possible for them to use 90% less energy than a typical dwelling. The design incorporates the principles of building biology which is a holistic approach to healthier living. The aim is to create buildings where the environment is as healthy as possible, both inside and out. Low toxicity is prioritised by using things like tiled or wooden flooring and filtered air ensures the best internal air quality possible.
We wondered how it feels to live in a Passivhaus home and were delighted to be given the opportunity to ask some questions.
Rose, who lives in one of the first Passivhaus homes built in Exeter, said, ‘I love living in it, it’s easy. It’s not just that though, it’s eco-friendly. When I moved in, the garden was set up with lots of herbs and things, although I’ve since changed it to flowers, which I prefer. The floors are tiled right the way through, so it’s easier to keep clean.’
What’s the temperature like?
‘Heating wise, I don’t touch mine. I don’t know what anyone else does but mine is set and that’s how I leave it. It’s been like that for nearly eleven years.
‘You could turn the temperature up if you wanted to but I don’t feel the need to at all. It just stays the same all year around.’
What about cost-wise, how economical is it?
‘It’s difficult for me to say because I moved from a big four bedroom down to a one bedroom but I’ve talked to other people and it is definitely a lot cheaper, and it’s all electric, no gas.’
Is there anything that you need to know, technically, about how things work?
‘No, I don’t need to think about anything, I don’t want to at my age. I just want to get on and live my life.
What was it like moving into one of the first Passivhaus homes in Exeter?
‘When I first moved in, I had masses of people coming to see it from all over. People from France, from Saudi and from councils all over the UK. Actually, just before the pandemic, I had an MP from New Zealand come to visit.’
So, people are still interested in experiencing a Passivhaus?
‘Yes, there’s still the odd occasion when I get a phone call asking if I mind doing something and I really don’t as I think it promotes Passivhaus.’
‘The thing is, it’s the build of the future especially as we head towards becoming low carbon. I’ve got triple glazing for insulation and I have solar panelling.’
That must help with energy efficiency as well!
‘Oh, it does, it’s for the hot water.’
Has anyone had to come and do anything to maintain or fix anything?
‘We moved in, in that very cold winter of 2010 and a blip happened on the system and we didn’t have any heating for days but we didn’t know we didn’t have heating. What twigged with me was the condensation, I thought, “this isn’t right, we shouldn’t have condensation”. Of course, it was the long break over Christmas, so I rang the council as soon as I could. They were straight out and as soon as they got here, he said, “You haven’t had any heating”.’
And you didn’t feel the cold?
No! No, we didn’t and as soon as it went on, the condensation was gone and never came back. We haven’t had any problems since.
Tell me how the filtered air works?
‘ The air is recirculated, my gubbins for it is in the loft. There are vents in each ceiling in the rooms and in the bathroom and over the kitchen area, there’s extraction. It’s all pure and filtered.
We have a massive book on how to use it, and it does say from the 1st November to something like the 1st March, we don’t recommend that you leave your windows open. In the warmer months, my windows are open but they don’t recommend you do it in the winter. This is fair enough because you wouldn’t normally open windows in the winter anyway. The air temperature is consistent, I have the cooker on to cook, that gives you heat as well.’
That’s amazing, I’d heard that the energy generated from a small animal is enough to keep the house warm.
‘Some people say, oh, you haven’t got a focal point. I said, ‘what do you mean?’ They said, ‘you haven’t got a fireplace or a radiator’. I replied, ‘I’ve got a TV in the corner, that makes the focal point!’
When I first moved in, for two years the house was monitored, and I got six little electric meters in the meter cupboard which were for six different areas.
So, you didn’t need any adjustments?
No, it’s been like that since the beginning. Sometimes I think, ‘Is it going to go wrong? but if it did, they would come and fix it but it doesn’t go wrong. Every six months the filters have to be changed and that’s it.
Does somebody come out to do that?
Yes, they do that. That would be like anything though if you have a tumble dryer or a vacuum, you need to clean the filters.
Do you think you feel healthier for living in a Passivhaus?
I do! That is so funny, that’s one of the questions I’ve been asked several times. I don’t get ill, don’t get colds, don’t get flu, don’t get anything.