And The Market Will Respond?

I’m a conservative. I’m also Scandinavian.

I believe in the power of the unfettered free market.  I also believe in “waste not, want not” and squeezing twelve cents out of a dime.

I believe in economic free choice.  I also have little patience for the “Nuke the Whales” and “Carbon Belch” schools of “conservative” conspicuous consumption.

And so while I reject the whole idea of top-down statist control of our economy (especially in pursuit of ecological initiatives based on groupthink-passing-off-as-science that even scientists are starting to cast off), I also figure “a buck that I save on gas or heat is a buck I can spend on microbrew, guns, ammo, Polish vodka, or grossly-undervalued stock”.

A house that doesn’t need heat?   I’m interested:

The concept of the passive house, pioneered in [Darmstadt, Germany], approaches the challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies.And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses.

Which, to be fair, is still a bundle; Germany has some pretty brutal land prices and building codes.

Which only means we in the US have more to work with.

When I started reading this, I thought about the thousands of acres of new, air-stingy mcmansions in the Twin Cities’ ‘burbs that are heading for early dates with the wrecking ball due to mold and air problems.

Problem, apparently, solved:

Decades ago, attempts at creating sealed solar-heated homes failed, because of stagnant air and mold. But new passive houses use an ingenious central ventilation system. The warm air going out passes side by side with clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with 90 percent efficiency.

“The myth before was that to be warm you had to have heating. Our goal is to create a warm house without energy demand,” said Wolfgang Hasper, an engineer at the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt. “This is not about wearing thick pullovers, turning the thermostat down and putting up with drafts. It’s about being comfortable with less energy input, and we do this by recycling heating.”

If the Germans can build an airtight rowhouse that works, certainly American ingenuity can turn the idea into a standalone personal castle.  Right?

10 thoughts on “And The Market Will Respond?

  1. I reckon those damn twisty flourescent light bulbs will have to go. You don’t get much heat out of them.

  2. The ventilation system is the new improvement here, not the heating or the insulation. They’ve been able to do the latter two for years, but nobody wants to be in an airtight house with new carpet and insulation fumes, radon and mold.

  3. To add to Margaret’s comment……..aren’t “airtigt” buildings the ones where dead people keep showing up in? Don’t you need some air movement from the outside? Is this ventilation system allowing humans to survive in said structure?

  4. The air exchangers actually do work. I’ve got a relative with one of those tightly wrapped houses and after they ripped out much of the wallboard and exterior and put in the air exchanger they haven’t had problems.

    Still, I prefer a slightly draftier house with a greener (and cheaper) heating system. Yeah, I have to get an acre of corn to heat the house, but that’s not much of a downside to be honest.

  5. Thanks, Mitch, but fairly high on Angryclown’s list of stuff not to do is entering airtight structures engineered by the Germans.

    Angryclown also tends to avoid the “Made in Germany” label when shopping for lampshades.

  6. Clown:

    Typical lefty – stuck in the forties.


    Yeah, I have to get an acre of corn to heat the house, but that’s not much of a downside to be honest.

    I’m waiting for those Toshiba basement nuke plants to drop a bit in price.

  7. Aren’t there some of these airtight homes along Wabasha Street? Or did they seal up all the caves?


  8. My folks’ Minnesota house made of poured concrete between thick slabs of styrofoam (called insulated concrete form [ICF] construction). Then, instead of a conventional furnace, it’s heated geothermally. The only energy used is to pump the coolant around, run the heat exchanger and ventilate the house.

    It sounds great, and it is greener than heck, but the additional costs give the system an ROI break-even point that is about 20-25 years out, even assuming high energy prices.

    On the other hand, replacing a standard 1980s-model gas furnace with a new high-efficiency furnace costs just a couple grand and can easily knock a third off the heating bill right away.

    Given the current immaturity of the ultraefficient systems, the moderate improvements are the ones that seem to make good economic sense for most people today.

  9. When we moved from south Minneapolis to the far south suburbs, we moved from a 1945 stucco story & a half with about 1500 square feet of heated space & a forced air furnace built in 1978. We now live in a modified two-story built in 1992 with about 3000 square feet of heated space, & a furnace from the same time period. Our heating bill dropped about 75% when we moved to the bigger newer house, and it’s not one of those airtight mold incubators either.

    The Mall of America does not have a furnace of any type. The green house roof over the amusement park, & surplus heat from electrical devices like lights, & computers + body heat from people keep the mall at about 70* F all winter long.

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