Petwalk: A Draft-Free Doggy Door for Energy-Efficient Homes

Images: Petwalk.

It’s a given that plastic-flapped pet doors and the furnace-less wonders known as passive houses aren’t exactly simpatico. Installing a traditional pet door in a home built to the stringent passivhaus energy efficiency standard — a standard once described by Lloyd Alter at sister site TreeHugger as involving a ****load of insulation, careful detailing, and controlled amounts of high quality glazing — is, well, blowing it, as they’re essentially giant holes that promote the one thing that passive house building sets out to avoid: drafts.

So what to do if you long to live — or currently reside — in a sealed-up, super-insulated home but also own a dog or a kitty that likes stroll in and out to and from the backyard as he or she pleases?

Recently unveiled at EcoBuild 2014 in London (h/t to Gizmag), Petwalk — “the first real high quality entry for pets” — is a thermally insulated, crazy-sophisticated pet door from Austria (of course) with a burglar-resistant built-in alarm system and a windproof, passive house-conforming design that prevents energy loss, i.e. heat from escaping and cold air from getting into your high-efficiency home.

In addition to keeping contortionist burglars and pesky drafts out of your home, Petwalk, which kind of looks like a giant safe or time travel machine for tabbies, also prevents animals that don’t belong to you from wandering on into your kitchen. Because really, there’s nothing more alarming than waking up in the middle of the night to find the neighbor’s 20-pound cat rummaging around the pantry or a raccoon pilfering your carpet. The touch-free, fully automated entryway only opens and closes when Fido or Fluffy approach it.

Magic you say? Nah. Equipped with an antenna, Petwalk responds to the programmable RFID (radio-frequency identification) microchips worn on a pet’s collar or inserted under its skin mich like like a standard ID microchip. The programmable aspect of the pet door-opening microchips — to be clear, this isn't an entirely new concept — can come in pretty handy for pet owners who don’t want their beloved critters entering and exiting the home at certain times (read: cats going out and causing trouble at night) or who own multiple pets with different needs, as detailed by Gizmag:

So if, say, one of your dogs or cats needs a bit more exercise, you can program the door to let one pet back inside but not the other. This may seem either unfair treatment or a brilliant solution to pet obesity and indolence, but the people at Petwalk feel that it’s something pet owners might like to control.

And then there's the optional rain sensor. If it starts to pour outside and you don’t want your Precious to get all stinky, wet and muddy-pawed, the Petwalk unit remains locked when your pooch approaches it from inside the home. On the other hand, if you normally keep the entry locked for an established amount of time while your pooch is frolicking in the backyard, the rain sensor will override the electronic lock system so that Precious can scamper on back inside when it starts to drizzle.
Billed as the “perfect solution for low-energy houses,” Petwalk is, naturally, fully customizable. Each individual module (available in medium for $1,662.50 or large for $1,837.50 with an XL size for the big boys coming soon) can be outfitted with optional extensions, accessories, and an array of acrylic clip-on decorative covers (mix ‘em up each season!)

In addition to its energy-saving benefits, the Petwalk team claims that the airtight system can stamp out unwanted noise pollution (they point out that a conventional cat flap is like “having a window open”) and eliminate mold growth:

petWALK doors — just like good windows — are located in the insulation level of the building and thus avoid a shift of the dew point. Due to the very good insulation they offer also on cold days sufficiently high surface temperature on the inside and therefore avoid condensation. These facts effectively prevent mold growth.

Would you fork over a couple grand for a high-tech, efficiency-minded pet door that keeps everything aside from your own pet — and sometimes, depending on the circumstances, your own pet — out of your home?