Passivhaus: the home that can cut your heating bills by 90%
A Hertford couple have joined a growing global movement which aims to build greener and more energy-efficient homes.
Turning an old railway cottage into a Passivhaus may sound like something strangely futuristic that's probably designed to sweep away the past. But for Andy and Lorna Simmonds, it was a way to create their dream energy-efficient home. In the process they've found themselves at the forefront of a global green movement.
There's actually very little that's futuristic about Passivhaus, although it certainly could become a standard when it comes to properties. It's the name for a global movement that started in Germany – hence the name, which simply translates as Passive House.
The movement promotes buildings that are energy-efficient, comfortable, affordable and ecological.
The benefits are many. The properties have high levels of insulation and airtightness meaning they need to use very little energy for heating and cooling. As a result, heating bills are slashed – typically by as much as 90 per cent.
That can save hundreds of pounds every year as well as providing a more comfortable home.
Experience shows that heating bills can be as low as £100 per year for a three-bedroom house.
"Passivhaus is has been adopted widely across Europe, with more than 30,000 properties built to the standard," says Jon Bootland, chief executive of the Passivhaus Trust.
"We've been slower to pick up on Passivhaus in the UK, but even so we now have more than 100 homes built to the standard and have completed the first schools and offices too," he added.
Andy and Lorna decided to make their Herefordshire home more energy-efficient after their twins were born. "Our house was draughty and cost around £1,300 to keep warm," says Andy, an architect.
The couple negotiated a residential mortgage with the Ecology Building Society – making use of the ethical mutual's C-Change sustainable homes mortgage discount scheme – and added a south-facing extension.
It includes large windows to capture solar energy and a new, super-insulated, hot water cylinder. They also insulated the existing solid-wall house with external insulation and added triple-glazed windows and doors, as well as a ventilation system with heat recovery and a very small, efficient natural-gas boiler.
The extension also includes a "green roof", planted with a wildflower and meadow mix, while Andy has moved his home office to a salvaged railway carriage in the garden.
Despite the larger space – the couple had extended their home by 45 metres and also need to heat the home office – they managed to cut their gas usage by 70 per cent. Meanwhile, their fuel bills have halved.
"We get both gas and electricity from Co-operative Energy and our bills have consistently been about £625 a year," Andy says. "We also feel much safer in a house that is so comfortable, quiet and cheap to run."
The scale of the improvement can be seen in our pictures. In the top picture right, the house can be seen next to its neighbours. Apart from the bushes and white paint, it looks much the same as other houses in the street.
But a picture taken using thermal-imaging (bottom right) reveals the shocking difference between the houses. While the others in the terrace are blasting energy out into the street – wasting lots of cash in the process – Andy and Lorna's home is retaining almost all of its heat.
"All year round the house is the right temperature, there's no messing with controls or fretting about getting the children to shut doors," says Lorna, a charity development director. "There is also no excessive clothing!"
The Passivhaus principle is not suitable for all homes. While it can be easily adopted into new-builds, not all existing properties can be adapted adequately to achieve full Passivhaus certification. If it isn't feasible, homes can be certified to an EnrPHit standard, which are less rigid.
"Passivhaus is ideal for home-owners that are building their dream home and want to protect themselves from rising fuel prices," says Mr Bootland.
He adds that it can also be ideal for social-housing providers who want to help their tenants reduce heating bills and avoid fuel poverty."
The Ecology Building Society has promoted Passivhaus by offering a mortgage discount scheme for the last five years. Homes which receive the Passivhaus or EnerPHit standards qualify for a discount of 1.25 per cent off the mutual's standard variable mortgage rate. The discount currently reduces the cost to 3.9 per cent APR.
"Our sustainable homes discounts show that lenders have a vital role to play in improving the energy-efficiency of our homes," says Paul Ellis, chief executive of the Ecology.
For information about the discounts go to www.ecology.co.uk/mortgages
For information about Passivhaus go to www.passivhaustrust.org.uk
How do I build a passivhaus?
To achieve the Passivhaus standard, a home in the UK typically needs to have a range of energy-saving measures.
For starters it's essential to have very high levels of insulation. That means triple-glazed windows with insulated frames. It also means having airtight building fabric.
The construction must be free of "thermal bridges" – gaps or joints in the building which allow heat to escape. It must also have a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery, which uses air leaving the building to heat air entering the building.
To achieve Passivhaus certification, a home must be planned using a special planning package, designed by a Passivhaus-certified designer, and certified by an accredited organisation.
Even without that, though, you can also use the principles of Passivhaus to achieve significant energy savings without necessarily achieving formal Passivhaus certification.
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
- 4 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
In defence of liberal democracy
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
iJobs Money & Business
£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...
£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...
Day In a Page
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park