October 06, 2011 by Steven Castle
What energy-saving technologies will our homes boast in the very near future?
Attendees of the Solar Decathlon competition that concluded last week in Washington, D.C., got to see how today’s technologies are being applied by college teams competing to construct and operate the most efficient homes. And it’s not just about solar panels collecting energy from the sun. Many of the 19 teams in the competition also employed in-home energy-saving technologies such as energy management and control systems, sensors and other devices to help shed wasteful electrical loads.
Teams needed to show how efficient their homes could be with regular use, providing all the power needed for cooking, appliances and entertainment.
The overall winner was a home constructed by the University of Maryland, which focused on water conservation—much-needed in many areas. The modularly constructed WaterShed home helps filter and recycle graywater from the shower, clothes washer and dishwasher. In addition, a liquid desiccant waterfall serves as both a design feature and provides humidity control in the house.
Other innovations showcased by the teams include:
- Solar thermal systems used for hot water, heating and cooling.
- A Trombe wall that releases stored energy at night for heating.
- Retractable glazing systems on windows to provide relief from heat and humidity.
- Solar canopies and green roofs.
- A solar thermal-powered drying cupboard for clothes.
- LED lighting.
- Heat recovery ventilators for fresh air.
- A self-watering biowall that filters air.
- iPad apps showing real-time energy use.
- Automated window shading.
- A transformable porch with motorized windows.
- Light switches powered by remote transmitters.
(See slide show for more.)
A micro-grid by Schneider Electric connected the solar homes to the Washington-area utility, Pepco, allowing the village to feed excess solar energy back to the regional electric grid and essentially becoming a power plant. By connecting the homes to the grid, competing teams could power their homes despite changing weather conditions and varying levels of energy demand, such as higher daytime load requirements.
Energy management products provided by Schneider Electric were incorporated into more than half of the homes in the competition. In addition, an Eragy home monitoring system was used in the New Jersey home and Lutron lighting control was used in the New York entry.
Video tours of the homes are also available here.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates
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