Positive Energy Homes by Robin Brimblecombe and Kara Rosemeier is OK. That might not be fair, I guess I went into this book with outrageously high expectations. The last book I got from CSIRO publishing was nothing short of outstanding. I was expecting a similar level of quality out of Robin and Kara on the topic of passive house… But it falls a little short of the mark.
The other difficulty is the passive house standard originates in Germany, and much of the content in Positive Energy Homes is framed around building houses for those cooler climates. The problem is that I live up in Far North Queensland. The tropics. Robin and Kara would go into great depth about an element and only to conclude with a quick one liner. Something like: Oh and if you live somewhere hot, wet and humid, then the opposite holds true. Or you would need to find a specialist that deals with that particular case. Often I felt that addressing positive energy homes in the tropics was an afterthought, an approach that struggled to create relevancy for passive houses in the tropics.
The basic premise of a passive house is to create a super insulated building fabric. Taking care not to conduct heat via support structures that may pass through the insulating layers and ‘thermally bridge’ the indoors with the outside conditions. Care is also taken to ensure that the house is airtight to prevent drafts from convecting and leaking heat.
A ventilation system featuring a high efficiency heat exchanger ensures that a passive house is supplied with a continuous supply of fresh air without creating a draft. Waste air leaving the building pre-warms the incoming fresh air.
Oh one super interesting thing I did learn about was the moisture carrying capacity of air and how it drastically increases with temperature. The hotter the air, the more water it can carry.
The chapter on energy generation and storage was written in a way that was considerably more helpful for a variety of Australian climates. It gave some solid insights into how to select renewable energy systems to match the climate of your location. Panel pitch, seasonal shading and maps for annual wind strength were all helpful guides.
I give Positive Energy Homes by Robin Brimblecombe and Kara Rosemeier 2.5 stars out of five. But if you live somewhere cold like Melbourne or Tasmania I wouldj probably bump that up to four stars out of five.
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