I designed, built and live in Iowa’s most energy efficient home.
It’s certified by the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) and has net positive energy “usage”. Hundreds of people have toured my home and I get the feeling people are a bit disappointed when they enter. They are expecting some groundbreaking building technique, some magic bullet technology maybe. What they see is – a house. People may notice the thicker walls, maybe the lack of a heat source but, at the end of the day, it’s just a house. Visitors usually ask the same question, “How does it work?”. The answer is quite simple – insulate, air seal and ventilate. It’s all quite simple to do. Heat, moisture and air all behave predictably and the products and techniques to manage them have been around since the 1960’s. So why don’t we build more energy efficient homes?
The short answer: people love easy solutions. Too expensive heating bills are a common problem in my neighborhood, and a common solution is often the easiest one: install a ground source heat pump, maybe just a higher efficiency furnace. Sure, those appliances help, but they’re not going to solve the problem. The real issue is the structure leaks energy like a sieve.
Why don’t we invest in energy efficiency measures, insulation? Why wasn’t the home built better in the first place?
I read in the Telegraph Herald this morning that Alliant and the City of Dubuque are spending over $250,000 to figure out how solar can run electric cars. This is not rocket science. The solutions for a lower carbon future already exist and have been implemented across the globe. Our governments – local and federal - should be investing in energy education and implementing existing technologies, not re-inventing the wheel.
Build/retrofit an energy efficient home, drive an electric car (better charging station infrastructure could make that easier), add some renewable energy and PRESTO, zero carbon living. Simple.