Passive House Windows Cost



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Passive House Windows Cost

There is a lot of buzz these days about passive houses and a big part of these energy efficient homes centers around their energy efficient windows. We thought we'd take you through some of the main features and aspects of these modern, high performance homes.

Have a question on window quotes, prices, or reviews? Send our site editor Dane your questions, and get personalized answers that can save you thousands of dollars on your project!


Passive House Basics

For the most part, Passive Houses are much more popular in many of the European countries, however they are beginning to find some small roots here in the United States as well. The simplest definition for a passive house is this - a home that uses 1/10th the amount of energy as an average home. This accomplishmnet is pretty impressive and is achieved by using a number of different methods and products (although there are no requirements for what the products must be.)

In order to be deemed a Passive House, a building must pass the Passive House Standard. It gets pretty technical, but as a general rule of thumb, the home or building essentially maximizes heat gain and minimizes heat loss. In order to do this, the home needs a very high level of insulation and a very low level of air leakage.


Passive House Costs

Most experts say that the initial construction costs of a Passive House are 10% higher than the comparable home built to code. We were surprised (and I bit skeptical) of this relatively low number. The national average per square foot cost of a residential home is $125. Therefore, a 2000 square foot home would cost $250,000 to build, with an additional $25,000 in building costs to pass the Passive House Standard.

If the average monthly energy bill is $400 per month for gas and electric and and a PH achieves a 90% drop, that translates to a yearly energy savings of $4300 per year. This would take 5.8 years to recoup the initial costs, after which the home owner would save the $4300 every year for the life of the home. There are obviously alot of assumptions made in this calculations and they will vary based on the project specifics.


Passive House Window Prices

The typical windows in a Passive House will be custom made, triple-paned vinyl or fiberglass windows that include top quality hardware, components, as well as having high quality construction and design. Each window will be custom made, based on the location of each window and how best to maximize solar heat gain for south facing windows and how best to minimize solar heat loss for north facing windows. Windows can generate over half of the heat energy for the home.


Heating And Cooling Systems

Many Passive Houses use special types of ventilator that captures heat from exhaust air and recycle it through the home with incoming fresh air. Passive homes often use an electric heat pump instead of a furnace or boiler. The resulting heating use is at least 50% less than the cooling and heating consumption of a comparable home in a comaparable climate.


Are Home Windows Eco Friendly

Hello! We are looking to replace a bunch of windows that are originals from our 1950s home. We are trying to find a sustainable option so that 20 years from now when these windows are replaced they don't end up in a landfill forever.

Vinyl windows seem to be the 'worst' option in terms of biodegradability. We got a contractor that can do Fibrex for a reasonable price - 32k for the following. (I am not sure where to measure a window but the installer said all our windows are standard sizes when installed in the 1950s...)

10 Reverse Cottage double hung - 70 x 30
2 casements 29 x 21
2 fiberglass awning 17 by 30
8 double hung - 29 x 36

Price is 32.3k - all windows are Fibrex except the 2 fiberglass that are in the bathrooms.

Thoughts on fibrex as a sustainable material once the windows are garbage ~25 years from now?

Are there other more sustainable options?

Thank you!

Joe - Homeowner - from 2021

[Site Editor's Answer]

Joe, I am not the guy to talk to in terms of the eco friendly properties of home windows. Personally, I would say finding windows that lasted for as long a period as possible is probably the best way to "help" the environment.

Fibrex is a combination of vinyl and sawdust so I don't think they are any more or less eco friendly than standard vinyl -- they just use less vinyl, but not that much really.

I found this article, but I'm not sure I buy the idea that vinyl windows are somehow okay for the environment. They really aren't unless someone takes the time to actually recycle the material.

https://greatlakeswindow.com/vinyl-windows-are-the-eco-friendly-choice/

Maybe in 30 years we will all be more eco-friendly, but most builders will remove the windows and chuck them in a landfill because it is the cheapest way to get rid of the windows. (Contractors and window installers have reputations for not really caring a ton about the environment, but this is of course a stereotype.)

My honest opinion is to buy a really high quality vinyl window that will last 40 or 50 years -- wood clad will only last 20 years and uses a vinyl or fiberglass cladding on the outside. A top vinyl window will give you better energy efficiency than any fibrex window out there.

Dane - Site Editor - from 2021







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Walls

Passive Houses use much thicker walls than a normal home. Many PH have walls that are over 1 foot in thickness. The thickness will depend on the climate of the area.


Insulation

The insulation used on a Passive House will be a much more than a normal home. Common passive house insulation options include blown-in fiberglass, blown-in cellulose, and rigid insulation. The result is a virtually airtight home that, when tested using a blower door test, is easily 90% more efficient than a normal home.


Passive House Window Manufacturers

American window manufacturers who manufacture windows that should satisfy Passive House requirements include Alpen High Performance Products and the Kensington Quantum 2 window. Canadian manufacturers include Intus and Klearwall.


Passive Ranch Windows

We are in the planning stage of building a Passive Ranch here in IL. For this we need Vinyl windows with the best U value possible but without breaking the bank. What would you recommend?

Joe - Homeowner - from 2016

[Site Editor's Response]

Joe, getting super high efficiency windows and not breaking the bank isn't the easiest of propositions. Well made vinyl windows are not necessarily cheap, although they will be less expensive than wood or even fiberglass windows. The four best made windows on the market in my opinion that offer excellent performance and air infiltration include the Soft-Lite Elements, the Okna 800 EnviroStar, the Alpen 925, and the Sunrise Restorations.

In terms of highest SHGC, you can work with whoever you purchase the windows from and explain the fact that you are building a passive home and thus need a higher SHGC than might normally come with a certain window. They should be able to order the windows with the highest SHGC available from that manufacturer. If the cost of the four windows that I mentioned is outside of your price range, each of the four manufacturers that I mentioned offers a step down window series that is still very good and will offer similar performance, without some of the features or upgrades.

Dane - Site Editor - from 2016






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