Most Americans probably don't even know about passive homes. It's no surprise – it's hard to spot them and they aren't exactly a big topic of conversation. Although they don't always look different than other homes, they do set themselves apart in a pretty brilliant way. They are incredibly energy-efficient – using about 90% less energy than a traditional home.

Passive homes act like a Thermos. Their exterior walls are 12-inches thick and they have triple-pane windows. They are so well-insulated that they don't even need a furnace. They are heated and cooled by itty-bitty, wall-mounted units around the home and require so little air conditioning that they could potentially go without altogether, depending on the climate. Other than that, for the most part, they are exactly like any other home. Europe already has about 30,000 passive homes and some EU countries have even updated building codes to include passive home specifications. So why aren't Americans jumping at the chance to build one of these energy-efficient homes?

  • Cost is likely the main deterrent for many Americans. Building a passive home can cost 5-20% more than a traditional house. Americans tend to want the best short-term deal. Because our price of energy isn't nearly as high as Europe's, energy efficiency isn't as big of a priority for us. Thinking for the near future, it doesn't seem like a very appealing idea to pay more for a home with no immediate financial return.
  • Convenience is another factor. Consumers have to build their own passive home. Currently, there are no passive home neighborhoods to purchase an already-built home in the U.S. whereas in Europe, there are neighborhoods filled with passive homes.
  • Marketing is probably another reason why they haven't caught on. While passive homes are praised for being energy-efficient, there are other perks that often go unspoken. For instance, outside noise reduction is a huge incentive. You won't have to worry about your neighbors mowing the lawn at 7 a.m. on the weekends – you won't be able to hear it.
  • We must also consider that the first passive home in the United States wasn't built until 2002. They've been around Europe since the early 1990s. Maybe their time is coming soon but we haven't had them long enough for them to catch on. Considering there are now more than 1,000 certified passive house specialists in the United States, it could be happening soon.

If you're interested in investing in a passive home, you might want to consider networking with researchers and certified builders by attending a conference. The Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) holds an annual conference in which those involved in the movement give presentations and answer any questions surrounding the topic. If you can't make the big event, don't fret. PHIUS also holds various meetings throughout the year in different areas of the United States. In the meantime, check out its website to learn more about the benefits and availability of these eco-friendly homes.

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