Summer in a High-Performance House


| 8/4/2014 10:00:00 AM


Summertime in coastal Maine involves warm days, gentle ocean breezes, and lots of blueberries. My family and I are enjoying our first summer in a high-performance house in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, a 36-unit multigenerational community with ultra-energy-efficient homes on 42 acres. The house performed well on windy winter days and during an extended five-day power outage, but now we are seeing how it fares during hot July afternoons without air conditioning.

Despite lots of south-facing windows, our home stays comfortable throughout the day if we close the windows and doors each morning. Considering that my two young children come and go from the house constantly, it isn’t an easy task. Because the summer sun is higher in the sky than in the winter, the southern orientation of the house does not cause it to warm up considerably, and we have curtains to curtail this. The cement slab and lots of insulation help us maintain cool daytime temperatures, even on hot days.

ecovillage
Photo by Jeffrey Mabee

“We really enjoy having lots of fresh air in our home,” says Hans Hellstrom, a neighbor and member of Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage. “We open the windows every evening, and depending on the weather forecast, close them again mid-morning. Because the homes are so well insulated, we are very comfortable throughout the day.”

During the cool summer nights, we ventilate the home as much as possible—a feat made simpler by our Unilux windows and doors and Zehnder heat recovery ventilation system (HRV). By design, the windows and the kitchen door promote summer comfort. Our triple-pane windows and one of the doors can swing inward on two hinges or be hinged on the bottom and tilted inward to open at the top. This tilted position offers draft-free ventilation and rain protection and boosts safety for small children, thus allowing us to have the windows open when it might otherwise not be a good idea.



The HRV system brings a constant supply of fresh air into the bedrooms and vents stale air out of the bathroom and kitchen. When the windows are open, the system can run in exhaust-only mode so stale outgoing air is taken from the kitchen and bathroom and exits the home, thus encouraging air movement through the windows.



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