Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Living in a Passivhaus, the first few weeks

We have been living in the completed Passivhaus Home since 19 August and are really looking to seeing how the house will perform this winter. So far, the temperature internally has been pretty constant. The only time we had some overheating was over the weekend of 10th and 11th September, when we took part in the Open House event. We had over 150 people visiting and there were a lot of people in the house adding to the heat gain noticeably. It was warm, humid and windy outside (unusual weather) and we found that the tilt and turn windows, some of which we had tilted open to provide extra ventilation and cooling kept blowing closed in the wind.

We are still tweaking the settings on the MVHR unit (heat recovery ventilation unit). The MVHR is designed to recover the heat from the old, outgoing air and give it to the new, incoming air. Of course, during warmer summer weather, this is the last thing you want. So MVHR units are designed not to recover any heat when this is not needed.

The heat recovery was kicking in when it was not needed. We have tweaked the settings so that it only comes in at 18C (the minimum temperatures allowed) and turns off if the temperature reaches 20C. The picture above, which was taken a few minutes ago, shows that the summer bypass is enabled, which means that it isn't recovering heat - a bit counter intuitive.I must say that the user interface needs a little improvement. There's definitely a little product development work for Paul here. I feel that this is an often ignored part of a product's design. An impatient user might have decided just to switch the unit into standby until the weather got cold enough for the heat recovery to be needed, which would have defeated the purpose of the system. That said, once set up correctly, we shouldn't have to fiddle with this again.

Our hot water system has an even less user-friendly interface. Although this is not a Passivhaus specific issue. I think Passivhaus buildings need as much thought to go into how easy they are to use as goes into the design and construction of the fabric. Although not a problem for us and probably for other early adopters in the UK, it will have an impact on the way Passivhaus is perceived.

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