By David Highfield

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If high utility bills irritate you, you may want to check out a new home in Squirrel Hill.

Passive House building is pretty rare around here. In fact, its owners believe there may only be three like it in the Pittsburgh area.

Passive House is kind of like a thermos. The goal is to keep heat, or cool air, in by making it almost airtight.

It’s much more common in Europe, but a local couple wanted to build one.

Lucyna de Barbaro is originally from Poland. Ayres Freitas is originally from Germany. They wanted it to be not only energy efficient, but also environmentally friendly.

From the outside, it’s a modern style, but you have to look closer to realize the differences between it and a more typical home. For one, it’s pretty airtight compared to regular homes.

“A typical home is basically 10 times more leaky than this house,” said de Barbaro.

One of the differences you notice right away is the thickness of the exterior walls. They’re 14 inches thick and packed with really dense insulation.

The windows are thick with extra fasteners for a super-tight seal.

The home was built with a special plastic air barrier around the foundation, and windows and pipes were sealed with special tape.

“Passive House tries to reduce amount of energy that a house uses,” said Freitas.

The home also has high-end finishes and appliances.

The home’s air filtration system has so many hoses; it looks like something from the Starship Enterprise. They say the air inside is better than the air outside.

There are environmentally-friendly features such as a rainwater collection system that prevents water from going into the city’s storm sewers.

And the wood is treated in an unusual way: It’s pickled in vinegar.

While going “passive” is rare here now, the couple believes energy costs may change that.

“We still believe in the long run, they will keep going up which will make passive houses much more interesting for everybody,” said Freitas.

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The couple lives on one side of the duplex, and they’re selling the other side.

The asking price is $599,000. It turns out, it’s somewhat pricey to be passive, especially when it’s not normally done around here.

The couple has an open house on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. and will be on hand to answer questions about the home.

It’s at 2883-2885 Fernwald Road, and for more information contact: lucyna.debarbaro@gmail.com.

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