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Solar Decathlon Entry Uses iPad to Monitor Home

August 25, 2011 - 6:27pm


In honor of the U.S  Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon -- which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive -- we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is participating in its first Solar Decathlon competition, featuring its home, “Living Light.” Named for its very brightly sunlit double facade glass system, the home’s blueprint was inspired by the cantilever barns of Southern Appalachia, which feature giant eaves to provide shade and a two-core design.

The floor plan revolves around the two wooden cores at the base, which allows for an open living space in the center. The home includes one bedroom, one bath, a living room and kitchen. More space is available for dining and recreation, along with an outdoor patio area and garden for growing small crops.

The double facade glass system is used for natural lighting and to keep a sealed temperature envelope that allows you to regulate it to your liking, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The facades are built with an inner insulated glass panel and an outer pane with an air barrier, which also holds the windows’ blinds.

Living Light is engineered for a two-season setup. In the summer, the ventilation system uses the facades to take in cool air from the north and exhaust warm air out the south. In the winter this is reversed so that preheated air is brought in through the south facade and cooler air exhausted out the north. Two mini-ductless heat pumps located in each of the cores and an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) also facilitate this process.

Of course, the real engine of Living Light is in its 10.9 kilowatt solar array atop the roof that also acts as a shading trellis. This array powers all of the electric appliances including an oven, cooktop, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, home entertainment systems (television and sound system), the mini-ductless heat pumps and the ERV, along with the most exciting feature--a home automation system you can run from an iPad. Knoxville expects the home to require just half the electricity generated from the array and suggest using the rest to charge an electric vehicle or even sell back to your utility company.

As mentioned, the home automation system brings a digital flare to energy efficiency with a state of the art iPad application. The interface allows you to manage mechanical systems, lighting, and even the home entertainment systems, all while tracking Living Light’s energy usage using only your finger tips.

Living Light is under 750 square feet, as it’s built for transport. The one piece home will be transported to Washington D.C. for the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition by becoming its own trailer via attached wheels and a gooseneck. Post-competition, Knoxville will use the home for further research on energy efficiency at the university.