Monday, October 3, 2016

The Passive House Experience - Experienced / Water Heater Install

We've Moved In!

So, where do I begin. It has been so long since I posted anything...

What have I learned from living in a (soon to be certified) Passive House?
  • It is QUIET! We don't live in a noisy area, but when you close the door you can actually FEEL the quiet. 
  • When something is sound proof, it keeps the outside sounds OUT, but also keeps the inside sounds IN. My 6 year old takes piano lesson. the piano is LOUD!
  • The ventilation system works great! Smells don't linger at all. My biggest "complaint" with it is when the boost button it hit, you have NO indication it is running any faster. There is no light or sound to suggest it is on high - you just have to believe it. 
  • We have had as many as 15 people in the house on a hot sunny day and didn't over heat the house.
  • The box elder beetles are BAD this year. We don't have any in the the house - no air leaks means bug proof as well.
    • We do get some fruit flies but I think they come in with our fruit
    • Horse fly's get in also when you open the door, 
  • The LED Bulbs are very BRIGHT!
    • We wanted to make sure we had plenty of light in the house when it is dark outside. We are thinking about putting dimmers on all of our bathroom switches because it is blinding 1st thing in the morning!
    • We typically don't need the lights at all, in any room, during the day.
  • We LOVE the induction cook top. 
    • We can boil water faster on the stove than in the microwave. 
    • We have much better control than on standard electric
    • There is no gas odor from cooking with gas
    • The cook top is easy to clean (since it doesn't get hot, nothing gets burned into the top)
  • The condensing dryer works great!
    • We don't notice any longer of a drying time because we have 2nd floor laundry, we can do a load of laundry every other day, so the drying time doesn't effect anything
    • The clothes and towels and sheets are dry when we take them out.
    • The only lint we see in the room is from us dropping some on the ground while cleaning the 2 filters 
We have installed our Sanden CO2 Heat Pump Water Heater:
This is my educated guess of where it would be located

Here is the front view of the outdoor unit

Here is a side view of the outdoor unit

The top red pex line feeds hot water to the tank at 160F, and the bottom red pex line takes "cold" water off the bottom of the tank to the heat pump outside

All of the heat pump heat transfer takes place outside, and just a water line is running between the heat pump and tank.

This is a photo of the tank set up
  • The bottom T is the cold water from the drain water heat exchanger and the hot water circulating pump feeding the tank.
  • The upper connection is the outlet of hot water to the loop in the house
  • There are 2 more inlets on the right side of the photo
    • The bottom is water out to the outdoor unit
    • The top is water in from the outdoor unit
    • There is a black conduit also to run communication between the tank and heat pump
1250 kWh per year!

A few notes: 
  1. Heat tape and pipe insulation is still needed and is not pictured here
  2. Because it is a "closed system" check valves into and out of the tank (as per the installation instructions) we needed to install an expansion tank per Code.
  3. The communication wire comes from the factory the maximum length allowed between the heat pump and tank (16.5 feet)
  4. A mixing valve came with the system to bring the tank water temperature from 160F to 120F at the faucet.
I will be publishing out blower door test in a video shortly, and will be posting a tour schedule soon as well! Stay tuned!


  1. Tell me more about the Sanden. How much was it? How hard was it to get it and get someone to install it? Does it let you load shift (heat while the sun is shining)? I have extra PV capacity, haven't decided which heat pump water heater to get yet.

  2. Pretty please :-) And kudos on your project!

  3. Dan,
    I was able to purchase the Sanden Heat Pump water heater through (The 475 Supply of the west coast). The cost was about $4000 with shipping, tax, etc. The biggest reason for me to go with the Sanden was the exterior heat pump unit. I was worried about the cooling of a standard heat pump water heater - it would double my heating load. An licenced plumber should be able to handle the installation. There are no refrigerant lines, only water lines, so the installation is fairly straight forward. Hope that helps!

  4. Forgot to mention, there is verbiage in the manual if the system is connected to off-peak electricity (it is programmable to idel during times of high electrical use). I am not sure this can help run the system when it is sunny and not run much at night. That would be a question for Sanden.

  5. Hi Matthew, I was curious of the square footage of houses' main 3 floors (2nd, ground, basement), breezeway, garage and above-garage storage. Thanks!

  6. The exterior house footprint is 32x46, the interior area is 29x43. The Basement, 2nd fl and 1st fl are the same size. The Breezeway is 14x10 and the garage is 25x30. One of my great challanges is figuring out which square footage to use - Code, and Tax Assessor uses exterior dimensions, Passive House uses "Carpeted area" and only 60% of the basement. I've been telling people it is 2800 sqft.

  7. Thanks for quick reply Matthew. Must say, your blog is the most extensive and most informative I've found on an individual PassivHaus. Any planning to build in North America would do well to read your blog first and avoid obvious mistake and pick up on your wise decisions. Never knew about heat pump dryers and convection stoves before reading your blog and I was born in Europe. Cheers!

  8. Thanks! We are do what we can to promote Passive House here!

  9. I hope that you are all settled in to your lovely new home. It looks idyllic. As for the water heater, well you can't go wrong with a Sanden Heat Pump. This was suggested to us, and then installed, by a local plumber. We've had no problems with it at all and we've had it now for five years.

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