Here we share some observations about and snapshots of the Passive House we had built in Michigan. All photographs were taken by us unless otherwise noted.
—Maura and Kurt Jung
EnergyTuesday, 11 August 2015
Over the course of two years our all-electric house has consumed on average one kilowatt. Since there is no consumption of gas or wood, this rate includes all heating, cooking, ventilation (almost always running in a passive house), lighting, refrigeration, computer use, etc. From spring through summer the consumption is about 12 to 15 kWh per day; in the winter on cold days and nights we can reach three times that amount. However, the energy consumption rate is only part of the story. This house is comfortable. At one whole house change of air every three hours the interior air is always fresh.
Our new solar panel array was installed by Michigan Solar Solutions on the eight-to-twelve pitch roof of our barn. During July, its first full month of operation, we collected over 1,000 kWh. Depending on how well it performs in winter, this rate should bring our farmstead close to net-zero over the course of a year. It is a grid-tied system; our electrical utility credits us for any excess energy we place in the grid.
Solar array on barn
Solar-powered clothes dryer
Faith, evening before wedding
Debbie and Ryan with Scott driving Jake
Shiawassee: landscape excavator
We enjoyed hosting the wedding of Faith and Ryan over the weekend. Our draft horse Jake had the honor of conveying Faith to the ceremony with much appreciated help from Chris and Scott, Jake’s former owners.
MaySunday, 25 May 2014
We were delighted to recently host an outing for the 24 awesome members of the Orchards Children’s Services Youth Board. These young people had a chance to visit our home and property and, after lunch, visit a nearby equestrian center for some horse-related activities.
Kurt, Shiawassee and Maura
Photo by Laura Jung
Maura, Jenny and Andy with Shiawassee and Chief
Our home has garnered some positive attention from other quarters too. This spring our electricity utility, DTE Energy, featured the home in the spring edition of EnergySmarts of Michigan, its consumer publication. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting with the good folks who produced the article. However, we never did have a chance to congratulate in person the talented crew that Photoshopped the snowbanks out of the cover image to make it appear like a spring picture.
As recipient of the 2014 Fine Homebuilding Houses award for best energy smart home, our house was paid a memorable visit by editor Rob Yagid and crew. The hardcopy Houses 2014 edition has a cutaway graphic that shows in meticulous detail the various components of the passive house shell that encloses our home.
Habitat restorationThursday, 10 April 2014
Our home site is situated in the lovely moraine uplands of northwest Oakland County, a region that 15,000 years ago was surrounded by the retreating Saginaw, Huron and Erie glacial lobes. What the coarse-textured soil in the area lacked in fertility it made up for in the natural beauty of oak savannas in the highlands and prairie fens and marshes in the outwashes. These fragile habitats have not fared well with post-settlement farming practices, widespread development, introduction of aggressive invasive plants and animals, and explosion of deer populations. Suppression of fires has degraded oak openings. Drains and peat mining have destroyed many fens, systems that depend on water that upwells from underground. Fens in particular support many threatened and endangered species including the mild-natured and beautiful Massasauga rattlesnake and Poweshiek Skipperling butterfly.
One of our goals here is to undo some of the ravages of the last couple hundred years. We have been active in removing autumn olive, black swallow-wort, phragmites, and garlic mustard, all of which support fewer native bird and insect species than the native plants they displace. Yesterday, the friendly and capable crew from PlantWise in Ann Arbor conducted a prescribed burn to help restore the gem on our property, a perched prairie fen. The burn included a wooded area that slopes down to the fen and which we hope to restore to an oak savanna in the years ahead. The burn itself was subject to many variables including temperature, wind conditions and snow cover. Throughout the operation, the prodigious amounts of smoke produced belied a fire that was always well controlled and slow moving. These fires do not damage established trees.
Controlling the downwind firebreak
Fen with house in background
The controlled burn is an important step in maintaining the rich ecology of the fen and just one of a large set of practices needed to preserve this increasingly rare habitat.