Virginia Students Showcase Energy Efficient Living
If you visited West Potomac Park in Washington, DC, this weekend you may have noticed an unusual sight amid our national monuments and museums: innovative and highly efficient housing structures built by students from all over the world as part of the 2011 Solar Decathlon.
First held in 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored event challenges university-led teams to embark on a collaborative architecture and design project with the goal of building the most cost-effective, energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing dwelling. The winner of the competition is the team who most effectively blends elements of design, efficiency and consumer appeal.
One of the most impressive homes was Unit 6 Unplugged, a house designed by Team Tidewater, a group comprised of students and faculty from Hampton University and Old Dominion University. Team Tidewater spent the last two years designing, constructing and outfitting Unit 6 with cutting edge solar power and energy efficiency capabilities. The team also capitalized on local inspiration, modeling their contest entry after multi-family housing units found in several of Tidewater’s local communities.
As visitors approach the house, the team’s efforts can be seen immediately: the core, located on the porch, houses the hot water storage tank and DC to AC inverters for the solar panel system that also frees up living space within the cozy dwelling. The inverters are connected to the solar panels found on the roof which produce 90% of the energy needed to meet the annual hot water demand. Just inside the entry way, the sun room includes a large operable window that doubles as a porch railing when lowered, allowing the homeowner to take advantage of the cool breeze. This window works along with two others found in the kitchen to maximize airflow and reduce heating and cooling energy needs—meaning lower utility bills.
Other key home features include electric remote control switches that operate without batteries, tilt operation windows that promote air circulation and Energy Star appliances that are linked to occupancy sensors and detect the absence of the homeowner to turn off appliances not in use.
Two versions of the Unit 6 home now on display at the Decathlon are currently under construction in Norfolk.
Learn more about Team Tidewater, other homes competing in the Decathlon and what energy efficiency and renewable energy features you can consider for your home.
Also, check out some pictures from Virginia Energy Sense’s visit to Unit 6 Unplugged.