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Living Green

Passive vs Active: Which is better for a greener household?

Passive vs Active: Which is better for a greener household?
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

By Gizel M. Salabao

There are two universal truths to being green: one, it can greatly reduce the adverse effects of today’s lifestyle to the environment and two, it can also significantly cut energy bills. That’s why more businesses and households today are inclined to increase their sustainability efforts.

Green living is a broad term. Some define it as having a greenhouse and compost in their yards while others think of it as installing solar panels or wind turbines to power their daily energy needs. Energy efficiency can be achieved by using simple means to complex equipment, namely the active and passive systems.

Active and Passive Systems
Instruments like solar panels and wind and water turbines that harness energy from readily available natural resources and even those that monitor energy consumptions are considered active energy system. In the long run, this system would reduce energy costs dramatically. But the drawback lies on the cost of the machineries needed, which are most of the time single-purpose components and are often considered as an add-on.

Passive energy systems, on the other hand, are incorporated in the structure of a home. They are usually done as early as the planning and designing stages and require homeowners to take part so the system would be effectively used. Passive, as oppose to active, is “in unity” with the home they’re in and would not work inseparably. The system consists of multiple parts that act in harmony to achieve the desired energy efficient environment, e.g. good insulation, southern-facing windows, etc. The best known example of this would be the Passive House.

The Hybrid System
While the concept of passive and active energy systems are opposite, they can be integrated into one—these are called hybrid systems. Hybrid systems are commonly inclined to the passive design but have additional active energy appliances to complement and decrease a house’s energy usage. Hybrid systems vary. One can be a house with good natural ventilation and electric fans to avoid using air conditioners, while another can make use of natural lighting with solar panels installed on the roof.

Optimal Energy Efficiency for Homes
The hybrid system might be a good bet but not everyone has the means to include both systems. It’s also important to note that most households consider a greener lifestyle to decrease their energy bills, so most people would most likely think twice about installing costly solar panels or wind turbines.

The passive system is a favorable contender. However, incorporating a passive design does not mean renovation of one’s home. Energy efficiency can also be obtained using simple means, as simple as changing the paint job of one’s house. A lighter shade of paint can help reduce heat buildup and can take advantage of natural lighting to brighten up a room. Simple window shading can help in bringing natural light in but at the same time prevent heat accumulation. Planting trees would already give coverage and a cooler atmosphere. But these are just the first steps into helping a household start with a more energy efficient lifestyle.

Households vary in terms of energy needs, energy usage, and structural design. The most optimal kind of energy efficiency system depends on these factors. One household may benefit more on an active system. A different household may benefit more on a passive design while another one may benefit more on a hybrid. The role of the homeowner is to know more about his/her household before making the decision of which kind to utilize.

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