ShareThis Page

Heidelberg home built to be extremely energy efficient

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
This home at 1606 West Railroad St. in Heidelberg is certified as a 'Passive House' because it has been designed By Action Housing to be energy efficient.
Randy Jarosz | For The Bridgeville Area News
This home at 1606 West Railroad St. in Heidelberg is certified as a 'Passive House' because it has been designed By Action Housing to be energy efficient.

A home at 1606 Railroad St. in Heidelberg built by ACTION-Housing Inc. became just the 45th house in the country to receive certification as a “Passive House.”

A Passive House is one designed to meet very low thresholds of energy use for heating and cooling and total energy usage. Certification is through the Passive House Institute U.S. of Urbana, Ill.

“To be Passive House certified, there are very specific performance standards,” said Lina Metropulos, senior housing development officers at ACTION-Housing, based Downtown.

She said the process involves two steps: To design the house to meet those standards, and to test it at the end of construction.

“The way to achieve that in these houses is that the houses are super insulated and very close to airtight,” said Michael Whartnaby, of Thoughtful Balance Architects of Shadyside, who helped design the house.

“This building in Heidelberg probably has about five times the insulation of a typical new home in the region.”

Whartnaby said there are three other tenets to producing this type of energy-efficient home. The first is to keep the building virtually airtight.

“We take great care with the windows,” he said. “We want to maximize solar gain in the winter, but they need to be oriented so you're not getting excess heat in the summer.”

The windows used in the Heidelberg home are triple-glazed.

Because the home is nearly airtight, it relies on a mechanical ventilation system to circulate and bring in fresh air. Whartnaby said through this particular ventilation system, the air in the house is replaced in its entirety every three hours.

Lastly, the home also relies on the most energy-efficient appliances possible to keep the total energy use down.

The home, which doesn't have or need a furnace, was completed in October and uses more than 80 percent less energy than the average home. It is the first in Western Pennsylvania to receive the designation.

“In driving down energy costs and what it costs monthly to operate the house, we're also helping to ensure we're keeping the place affordable,” Metropulos said. The Heidelberg home was sold and is occupied.

Whartnaby said the estimated cost of operating the house for a year is just $905.

“That includes everything ­— heating, cooling, lighting,” he said. “People will say it seems like a lot of effort to do all those things, but the payoff is, maybe not total freedom from utility costs, but pretty darn close.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.