The Zero-Energy House: The Bold Low-Cost Breakthrough that may Revolutionize Housing

by Eugene E. Dallaire, Assoc. Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1980, Vol. 50, Issue 5, Pg. 47-59

Document Type: Feature article

Errata: (See full record)


The world is in the early stages of a revolution in housing. About 200 houses have already been built in Canada that use under $125/yr for electric-resistance space heating — even where winter temperatures are typically -25°F. The same low-energy houses built in the U.S. would use zero energy for space heating. What's promising is that the energy-saving features add only a modest sum to the initial cost of the house — anywhere from $600 to $4,000, far cheaper than active solar systems (which wouldn't furnish 100% of heating needs either). The key features to these zero-energy houses: solar orientation of house; massive amounts of insulation in walls and ceilings; polyethylene sheeting in walls and ceilings to prevent air from leaking into or out of the house; an air-air heat exchanger to use the stale, outgoing indoor air to preheat fresh air. The housing industry will be slow to respond — unless homebuyers demand such houses.

Subject Headings: Residential buildings | Benefit cost ratios | Housing | Temperature effects | Walls | Ceilings | Winter | Energy consumption | Canada

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