Whirlwind’s unique ‘passive solar’ house

Whirlwind Solar, a division of Whirlwind Steel Buildings, Inc. in Houston, Texas, announced July 15 the installation of a building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) solar laminate system on the first home on the South or West Coast to meet the stringent Passive House energy requirements. The Lafayette home of Corey Saft, an Architecture Professor at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, will serve as a cost effective urban prototype that demonstrates a remarkable 90 percent reduction in energy usage over traditional homes built to current codes.

Keihly Moore, with the Illinois-based Passive House Institute US that gives the certification, says of Saft: “He is the first in the South. He’s blazing a trail.” The use of solar photovoltaics, along with the Passive House design criteria of 90% reduction in energy usage over traditional homes built to current codes, makes this an affordable zero-energy prototype for the extreme conditions in the hot and humid South as well as anywhere else.

The project incorporated many innovative thermal techniques to reduce energy consumption. Following the general Passive House strategy, the home is super-insulated and extremely well sealed, making the construction act more like a thermos to preserve the conditioned air inside and consequently requiring much less overall conditioning of air. As an analogy, think of plugging in your coffee maker to heat the water to make your coffee but then transferring the coffee to a thermos to maintain the temperature throughout the day. Once you cool or heat your house the most efficient way to maintain the temperature is not with additional electricity but through a well sealed and insulated container. In terms of energy consumption the results are obvious – and this is what the Passive House philosophy is all about. Combine this with the efficiency of Whirlwind’solar laminate panels and you quickly see how in the first month of operation this building was a zero-energy consumer.

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