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The first Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, was a showcase of solar innovation and building technology. The 14 collegiate teams used the sun to power every home appliance and to heat and cool the home — a key component of the competition.
Andrew Lee of Carnegie-Mellon University says, "Heating and cooling is typically the greatest amount of energy used in a home. That can be reduced with the right amount and type of insulation, as well as by sealing the home properly."
Some of the collegiate solar innovations showcased are:
- Auburn University's special water tanks. Part sculpture, part solar heating system, the water-filled glass tanks heat up during the day and release the heat throughout the evening.
Many of these innovations are already being used in residential homebuilding. Homeowner Alden Hathaway built a net-zero colonial-style home in rural Virginia, and enthusiastically shares information with those who want to undertake the same type of project.
Alden's home contains the following innovations and solar technologies:
- 4-kilowatt amorphasilicon solar array
- 2-kilowatt solar monocrystalline array
- Solar hot water system
- Passive solar features/design
- An inverter to switch collected energy from DC to AC
- Is grid-tied so that extra energy collected is credited by the local utility
- The installation of an attic fan that will reduce overhead heat and further reduce cooling costs.
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