For many families, the kitchen is the heart of their home. It is where you prepare and share your meals, create delicious treats for your loved ones, and cook up a storm for family gatherings and special occasions. So it’s not surprising that many of our clients like to focus on their kitchen design when building their new home.
That’s why we get many questions about kitchen design in passive homes: What can you do to make your kitchen more efficient? What type of equipment do you need to maintain a high performing kitchen? And are there any specifics to keep in mind when designing a kitchen for a passive home?
In this article, we are going to answer all of these questions. We will cover:
- The challenge for designing kitchens in passive homes
- Passive house kitchen ventilation
- Rangehoods in passive houses
- Kitchen stoves for passive houses
- Other ideas for a more efficient kitchen design
THE CHALLENGE FOR DESIGNING KITCHENS IN PASSIVE HOMES
You might think that a passive house kitchen is not much different to any kitchen in a standard build, but there are some details that can make a big difference. Passive homes are designed to achieve the highest level of airtightness possible, while maintaining a comfortable and healthy air quality inside the building envelope.
Now, if you fire up your kitchen stove and start cooking, you add heat and fumes to the room. In order to break up and filter out these unwanted side effects of cooking, you need a ventilation system that keeps your air nice and clean. That’s what HRV systems are for, so making sure the cooking area is ventilated is a big priority for passive house kitchens.
But no matter how good the HRV system, it won’t be able to get rid of unwanted smells. While the smell of freshly baked bread and cookies might not bother you at all, the salmon for lunch or the spicy stir-fry for dinner might be a whole other story. That’s where rangehoods come into play. Wanting to keep the airtightness intact again though, we need to choose the right rangehood system for passive houses.
Finally, high performance in terms of energy efficiency is another key aspect of passive houses. You want to minimise the amount of power you are using for heating, cooling, and running appliances such as fridges, freezers, stoves, and ovens. Therefore, installing the most energy efficient appliances is a very important factor for high performing passive house kitchens.
To sum it all up, the major things to look out for in a passive house kitchen are installing ventilation, getting the right rangehood, and using energy efficient appliances, especially for cooktops.
Let’s look at these 3 areas in more detail.
1. PASSIVE HOUSE KITCHEN VENTILATION
Passive houses often use a heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system that draws filtered outdoor air into the house and exhausts stale air. This active ventilation is crucial to maintain a high air quality in otherwise almost completely airtight buildings – and it helps to remove moisture, odours, dust and pollutants from the kitchen area as well.
Ensuring that the kitchen HRV extract is placed in the center of the kitchen area as well as close to the stove where additional odours and fumes occur therefore is one aspect to keep in mind when designing a kitchen for a passive house.
We had an interesting discussion about this under one of our Instagram posts recently. Join in on the conversation if you like!
2. RANGEHOODS IN PASSIVE HOUSES
Rangehoods are used to maintain a healthy air quality in the kitchen, while also making the cleaning process after cooking much easier. That is because rangehoods filter out grease particles and contaminated air before it can set and make your cabinets feel all sticky.
There are 2 different types of rangehoods generally used in kitchen design: Extracting rangehoods and recirculating rangehoods.
Extracting rangehoods extract the air from inside the kitchen to the outside. But that means you have to add an additional hole in your building envelope, letting in cold and hot air. If you choose this option, you need to make sure the air outlet and inlet are equipped with airtight seals, to maintain a high level of airtightness in your home. You will also require an air supply that provides the same amount of air that is being extracted to keep the internal air balanced. Amongst other means, this can be done by simply opening a window.
Efficiency Matrix has an amazing video on rangehoods for passive houses.
Another option, and the one we prefer to use in our passive house designs, is a recirculating rangehood with charcoal filters. These rangehoods soak in the used air from cooking and filter it through the charcoal filters, before returning the air back into the kitchen. While these filters must be replaced on a regular basis, recirculating rangehoods don’t require outside access, keeping the airtight building envelope intact. In our opinion, this is the most effective solution for an exhaust system in a passive house.
The German passive house website has a very thorough guide on which rangehoods to use for passive houses. You can check out their report as a PDF in English here.
3. KITCHEN STOVES FOR PASSIVE HOUSES
We know that gas stoves are a much-loved feature in many Australian homes, but connecting your new home to gas just for cooking sounds pretty silly to us – and it’s not very energy efficient either. We prefer to use electric stove tops, particularly induction stoves, in our passive house kitchen designs, as they are much more efficient for both your power bill as well as your cooking time.
Induction cooktops provide instant heat when cookware is placed on it, so they are way faster in getting that pot of pasta water to boil, saving you not only countless hours of waiting around in your kitchen for your food to warm up, but also the amount of energy used, as they generally have to be on for way shorter periods of time.
But the increased cook time is not the only reason we prefer induction stoves – it’s also their overall unparalleled energy efficiency that’s got us hooked. How induction cooktops work is through an electromagnetic field. While other electric or gas stove tops have to heat up an element to then transfer the heat to your pots or pans, induction stoves simply switch on the electromagnetic field and pass the heat on directly. This means they are not wasting any energy, and are therefore more energy efficient than other stove tops.
OTHER IDEAS FOR A MORE EFFICIENT KITCHEN DESIGN
In addition to ventilation, rangehoods and stoves, you can also look at the general size and layout of the kitchen. Using space smarter and giving it more than just one purpose is a great approach to make your home more efficient. So don’t forget about those little nooks under your kitchen cabinets and utilise the space below the oven for extra storage.
Another important aspect worth noting is including energy efficient kitchen lighting in your design, because you need to see what’s cooking, but you don’t want to burn your fingers on your power bill later on.
But one of the biggest factors is choosing the right energy efficient kitchen equipment. We already mentioned stoves, ventilation, and exhaust systems, but fridges, freezers, and dishwashers are also appliances that should have an appropriate energy rating to support a high performing passive house.