Decreasing consumption and improving living
Societies all over the world are facing a challenge of finding new ways to enhance energy independence while ensuring healthy, safe and pleasant living conditions. Active House USA combines the most advanced building innovations with systematic performance tests and careful attention to its surroundings. The result is a home that is more comfortable, healthy and easy to operate, at the same time as keeping energy consumption to a minimum.
Orienting the design of the house to the sun’s path, is an important element of site planning for successful performance of the home. Proper solar orientation allows us to take advantage of the sun’s rays for passive solar heating and cooling and allows us to tap into something truly amazing – free energy. A well-designed and correctly- oriented house not only focuses on healthy comfort, but also increases solar heat gain in winter and reduces unwanted heat in summer. This simple consideration can reduce a house’s energy use considerably and at no extra cost − for the entire life of that building.
Correct solar orientation can also provide glare-free natural light throughout the house. Although it is desirable to limit north-facing glazing to avoid cold temperatures, incorporation of a balance of vertical daylight from the north, as provided by VELUX Energy Star qualified Sun Tunnel or traditional skylights, ensure a constant natural light with less glare.
Passive solar design
The design which includes daylight in energy calculations reduces the need for artificial lighting and reduces utility usage and bills. As a bonus, using less artificial lighting cuts the amount of heat generated in the house which, in turn, further decreases the demand for air-conditioning in summer. Passive solar design is one of the most effective ways in which we are incorporating the sun’s power to enhance the energy efficiency of Active House USA.
The Building Envelope consists of the floor, walls, windows, doors and roof of the home. The Active House USA envelope offers all the benefits of the traditional building envelope and a great deal more. Thanks to use of Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) from Insulspan, it is more durable and energy efficient; and it allows the occupants to live in quieter and safer comfort while spending less on utilities. The exterior walls of Active House USA are designed and constructed to guarantee that the home will perform effectively and efficiently without energy loss or mould concerns. Along with our quality-managed sealing program, the SIP system offers a superior energy rating of R25 for walls and R45 for roof panels.
The Roofing on Active House is fitted with solar-reflective Solaris tiles from CertainTeed. They are coated with reflective granules to reflect most of the sunlight and heat and prevent the penetration of UV rays, protecting the roof and keeping it cooler. The tiles, therefore, last longer and the climate inside the home can be controlled more efficiently.
Windows and Doors
In addition to the VELUX Skylights and sun tunnels, the Active House USA uses window manufacturer, Loewen, and doors from Webster. The windows are all constructed with high-performance, low-e glass with argon between the two panes. By using a denser gas, such as argon, the insulating performance of the window is enhanced dramatically. In addition, a metallic coating used on the glass greatly reduces the heat transfer, or emissivity, of the windows.
Non-toxic sealants around windows and doors on the interior, durable caulk around the exterior, and foam insulation in door jams tighten the envelope to prevent air leaks and reduce heat transfer. And at the end of the Loewen windows long design life, the entire windows and doors are recyclable.
The Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) equipment and installation in Active House USA have been designed by the engineers at Scott Lee Heating Company, who analyze the HVAC system in relation to the conditions created by using the solar design, the airtight envelope and the sealing of air leaks.
Active House USA is fitted with the new Lennox SLP98V; 98.3%-efficient furnace and XC21, 19 SEER Air Conditioner, which is the most efficient and quietest available.
With dramatically reduced heating and cooling demand through design and construction, the small amount of heating and cooling that is needed, will be provided at the highest rate of efficiency. Similarly, new HEPA filters and recovery ventilation systems will help maintain improved air quality inside. These types of products make the building perform better at a greatly reduced cost.
The Active House HVAC system incorporates a natural ventilation system into the mechanical HVAC system. The centrally located stairwell together with VELUX Skylights atop the stairwell, and windows in the stairwell provide light to the center of the home. The skylights are motor operated to provide a natural draft in the house, with fresh air supplies.
Heat, humidity and moisture sensors automatically operate the opening and closing of the vents, and the HVAC system depending on local climate conditions. The system can also be manually controlled via a central panel in the home or by using a smart phone.
Water Heating Design
The Water Heating Design for efficient heating and distribution is part of Active House USA’s holistic approach to the construction of the house. Hot water is provided primarily by the Solar Thermal System. There is also a highly efficient natural gas backup for high demand situations, with a power ventilator on the heater to control combustion products and preserve indoor air quality.
An efficient water heating design reduces the amount of energy lost in transit, which reduces the homeowner’s operating costs. The initial construction costs are also lower. One method to maximize operation of the water heater is for example, reducing placing the washing machine as close to the water heater as possible. Laundering clothes accounts for approximately 23% of indoor water use each month.
We have installed an efficient, cost-effective PEX piping systems which by using tubing can be threaded throughout the house. PEX systems have about 90% fewer elbows, on average, than copper piping, and no chemicals are used for connections. It also takes less energy to manufacture and is a recyclable product.
Solar Power is provided by a photovoltaic system designed by Micro Grid. Active House USA’s location has peak annual energy demands for both heating and cooling. However, they are usually limited to short periods, and for the rest of the year more power can be generated than the house requires for its operation. When the amount of energy used equals the amount of energy generated, a house is defined as a “Net Zero Energy”.
Natural Gas is another energy source used in Active House USA, readily available from a local supplier. Laclede Gas Company. Natural Gas is a clean, low-cost, domestic energy source, and provides an opportunity to broaden our energy resources for the customer. With our holistic approach to energy efficiency, there are plans to provide additional natural gas car charging station in the garage, giving the owners very cost- effective, sustainable fuelling options for their vehicles.
As a prototype home, an additional part of the building process will be post-occupancy performance verification. The High Performance Buildings Research Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia Energy Efficiency Research Consortium (MUEERC) will conduct digitally monitoring and measure Active House USA’s energy use and indoor air quality for a minimum of one year. In addition, The Active House Alliance and VELUX Group will participate in the ongoing testing, data collection and dissemination in association with MUEERC, the project manager at Verdatek Solutions LLC and the builder, Hibbs Homes LLC.