Editorial: Don’t turn down the heat!

by Andru McCracken, Editor


Our most brilliant move as a couple, believe it or not, was not choosing to work together full time at this newspaper, it was back in 2014 when Laura and I decided to build a Passive House.

We’ve drastically reduced our heating bill though between the dishwasher, laundry and hot water, we’re still paying something. Despite our insanely low electric bill, we decided to try and save even more money over the holidays.

We turned down the heat.

Not much. Down to 17 degrees from 21.

That’s what you do when you go on vacation right? Pull the blinds and turn down the heat. No sense paying a whole schwack of money for energy you are not going to use, right?

Not with a Passive House.

Most homes are like a coffee pot on a hot plate. The glass coffee pot radiates heat out and the hot plate puts more energy back in.

A Passive House is much more like a thermos. It’s built to keep heat in.

You don’t need a 600 watt element keeping your thermos hot.

Even thermoses will eventually get cold, so we do add some heat everyday.

Happily most of it is free. We collect it from the sun. In the winter when the sun is low it reaches far into the house.

Six super efficient south facing windows (including the front door) do most of the work.

We rarely notice the baseboards go on, even when the temperature drops (because it’s usually sunny and bright on cold days).

Of course there needs to be back up. If it’s really cold and not sunny, windows will not cut it.

So we have three baseboard heaters on the main floor and one in each bedroom upstairs.

The problem that we ran into when we came back from vacation was getting the house from 17 to 21 degrees.

The floor was so cold that even our toddler was opting not to take off her socks. It took three days to get the house back to normal.

It created sensation we’re unaccustomed to: hot rooms and a cool floor… We haven’t experienced that since we moved in.

In the long run, I doubt we saved much energy over the vacation by turning down the heat, especially with the blinds pulled!

After experiencing two winters in the Passive House, I recommend it as a way to build. I feel a smug satisfaction not paying BC Hydro to heat the house, and infinite compassion for all those suckers lugging firewood around.

So when you build that super efficient solar heated house, don’t turn down the heat when you leave. Just remember to leave the blinds open!

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