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My experience of staying in a Passivhaus

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 August 2013 at 10:31 am

Having lived in a series of draughty old houses over the years, I've always wondered what it would be like living in a Passivhaus. So when i discovered there was a Passivhaus bed and breakfast in the South of England where I was due to attend a conference, I booked in.

The B&B is one of the first homes to be retrofitted to Passivhaus standards in the UK. The original building was part of a 1970s modernist housing estate, so the Passivhaus needed to retain that aesthetic. A new-build timber-frame extension was added on. 

The friendly owners quickly disabused me of myth number one about Passivhauses. Apparently it's fine to open the window if you want. As someone who always sleeps with the window open, that was a relief. But the air was so fresh inside the house that I didn't actually feel the need to do, and didn't wake up with that sluggish, headachy feeling you can get in stuffy houses.

They warned me that I might hear the mechanical ventilation and heat recovery, as there was a vent in the bathroom next door but, if I hadn't been listening out for it, I probably wouldn't have noticed. Generally the house was light, bright and very comfortable to stay in.

The house got an air tightness test result at Certification of 0.2 a.c.h. (which is exceptional for a retrofit) and the total Primary measured energy in use is a very low 75.8kWh/m².a during the first year of occupation. This is for the family house, plus a home office and frequent extra B&B guests.

Electricity is generated with a large solar pv array and there are also solar thermal panels for hot water. The owners used natural materials such as sheep’s wool, cellulose and timber frame as well as high performance materials (e.g. An External Wall Insulation System using 180mm phenolic insulation) in their build.


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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4 comments - read them below or add one


cg617Comment left on: 13 April 2014 at 9:40 am

This is the ONLY real way of reducing that well worn phrase 'global warming'.  As the human population increases, so does its power consumption, and power consumption is global warming.  Where there is no heat recovery system (99% of dwellings) all the energy used in the home each is directing heating the outside world.  In other words, all the power produced by our power stations, after a few hours is nothing more than heated atmosphere.

The only real way to reduce heat loss is to recover heat that leaves the building, and that requires good insulation (which is happening), but then seal the building and recover heat as its exchanged.  Cookers, fridge/freezers, etc don't really matter as the heat they produce will get recovered in the exchange.

If you want a real visualisation of wasteful heating, look at your street.  Each property uses about 5000KWh of electric and 14500KWh of gas.  Therefore each property is an electric fire heating the outside world at the rate of 50KWh/day, every day.  A sobering thought.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 30 August 2013 at 9:44 am

Hi John

Thanks for your comment. It sounds a pleasure to live in. How amazing to have an annual heating bill of £50 - I'm green with envy.

And glad to hear that your solar PV is out performing expectations. 

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JohnFWComment left on: 29 August 2013 at 9:53 pm

Hello Cathy,

My daughter and son-in law live in Guernsey, where there is no gas. They use electricity for heating which is VERY expensive and have now been living in a brand new Passiv Haus for a year. It is a very large and comfortable house  and their heating bill (for one diminutive radiator and two towel rails) was £50. They have solar hot water and all the usual heat recovery systems etc, but no PV. The house is maintained at 22 degrees year in and year out, Although the "machine room" is quite large there is little or no noise fromthe equipment.

The house was built using SIPS panels and the basic structure went up very quickly. It was the 70th Passivhaus to be built in the British isles and the first Passivhaus in the Channel Islands and they have been awarded a plaque - now discreetly mounted on the wall - to celebrate it


PS: My lovely PV system, courtesy of Joju Solar has exceeded 12 month forecast generation by 14%

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R A Brown Heating Services Ltd

R A Brown Heating Services LtdComment left on: 16 August 2013 at 12:46 pm

The mechanical ventilation heat recovery is one of the important factors in making a healthy 'sealed up' house - we're finding that this is an area like heat pumps were a few years ago where public awareness is not that high but is set to grow over the next few years. Apparently it's vital to control your air changes and moisture content. As heat pump installers we are branching out into this area to offer this important complimentary service - even in houses that don't quite get to passivhaus standards.

It's great to hear of a Passivhaus B & B too.



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