The 2010 National Solar Tour, organized by the American Solar Energy Society, is Saturday, Oct. 2.
Today's solar technologies are mesmerizing in their diversity and ingenuity. International Solar Decathlon winner Virginia Tech offered to provide this year's National Solar Tour participants with a look at what the future holds by introducing its acclaimed net zero lumenHAUS onto the menu of 2010 solar tour sites.
Virginia Tech's smart-grid ready home of the future, the lumenHAUS, manifests a concept known as responsive architecture, which employs state-of-the-art technology to drive the home's response to internal and external factors like sun, weather, temperature and, of course, its inhabitants. Its two-fold objectives are to optimize energy efficiency and user comfort while affording the individual as much control over the quality of his living environment as he desires.
The lumenHAUS automatically responds to its environment using a weather station, which constantly monitors climactic conditions and adjusts home controls to optimize energy use and keep the home efficient (yet perfectly comfortable) throughout the day.
Polycarbonate and stainless steel shade screens featuring laser-cut elliptical discs automatically shift to ameliorate temperature extremes, either blocking sun and providing cross breezes. Shutters and motorized draperies open and close according to external sun, shade and weather patterns to ensure optimum efficiency, comfort and desired levels of privacy.
Glass walls optimize the home's passive solar capabilities, inviting enough light in to keep the temperature comfortable, yet executing a window tinting function to block scorching summer sun when temperatures get too warm.
"Virginia Tech's number one emphasis is to educate the public that square one of energy efficiency is gaining an awareness of how you're using energy, which makes it more difficult to waste it," explained Joe Wheeler, Associate Professor of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech's) School of Architecture and Design.
Wheeler says that's why the team offers remote iPad and iPhone control of the computer that drives the entire home system, 24-7. "They give the homeowner feedback on how much energy the home is consuming each day. Each time you open your iPad, you can see every device, appliance and CFL that's using energy in your house and you can do something about it," he said. "When you think about it, added Wheeler, "the most energy efficient you can be is to stop using your systems when you don't need them."
Below the home, a thermal loop uses the earth's constant temperature to cool the floors in the summer and warm them in the winter. All of the home's internal energy needs are powered by what's on top Sanyo's HIT DOUBLE bifacial solar modules, which provide 100% of the home's power.
"It was the bifacial qualities of Sanyo's solar modules that attracted us, as they collect sunlight from the top and bottom, optimizing energy output," said Wheeler. Further, the engineers designed a tracking mechanism for the panels which allow the modules to follow the trajectory of the sun as seasons change, ensuring the modules can harness the sun's position to produce the maximum amount of energy possible for any given condition.
People can tour LumenHAUS at Virginia Tech's campus this coming Saturday, Oct. 2. The modular, well-traveled lumenHAUS was designed to be easily transported, which has facilitated its being on display at the National Mall in Washington, DC, at Times Square in New York City, for the ten-day Solar Decathlon competition in Madrid, Spain and, next month, at Millennium Park in Chicago for the Green Building Council's annual Greenbuild conference.
The Solar Decathlon Europe is an international U.S. Dept. of Energy-sponsored competition that challenges 20 teams representing the world's keenest minds to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and efficiency. Virginia Tech more than made the grade for this challenging competition. It's generated a new school of thought on sustainable living that will inspire people for generations to come.
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