Benefits of a Class Demonstration in Solar Village


A class act blower test was conducted in the 2002 Solar House. The demonstration was put on by the ArchE 372- Residential Renewable Energy Design class. The purpose of this special visit was to teach the students about how a blower test is conducted but then also be able to set up a blower test as part of a case study in the course. The reason why the students need to learn how to use this apparatus is that it will help them tell homeowners where air leakage is in the home. Air leakage is a big source of wasted energy. It could be a waste with air conditioning or heat because of the fact that systems must work extra hard to keep that stable ideal temperature within the home. Wasted energy equates to wasted money and by conducting this test homeowners face savings all around and create a more comfortable environment at the same time.

The students used a Retrotec house leakage analysis system. The typical blower door set up consists of a temporary door panel that seals within a door frame. All other doors and windows must be closed when this test is being conducted. A fan within the temporary door is stabilized and is able to measure the airflow. A two-channel gauge that measures pressure helps with calculations. Create a negative pressure on the inside of the home and push the positive to the outside. The pressure imbalance gets measured and can help determine the size of the leak. Fan speeds can be controlled but when everything is set up the fan must be spinning fast for proper results to be read. Soon enough you will feel air seeping into the home from the leak points as its getting sucked in from the outside.

The 2002 home had a lot of air leakage around the seams of the door. Standing in the house while this test was occurring students could physically feel the drafts of air.  The weather stripping had aged and worn down too much but thanks to this test, more energy awareness has been made. To immediately resolve this energy loss and leakage problem the students made some adjustments. At the same time as running the test they applied duct tape and tissue to line up the door. Immediately, results could be seen on the measurements of the gauge towards a positive direction. The students recommended that once a year homeowners check the weather stripping around doors and windows. There are nice seals that can be used but when in a pinch, tape works to seal off a door. Another method along with rolling up a towel and laying it along the bottom crack of the door is to caulk any stationary house components like window frames. Keeping up on energy savings leads to a happy eco-friendly home!!!!!

Retrotec blower system ready to be unrolled!!

       Retrotec blower system ready to be unrolled!!


Shayne Heskin working hard to learn how to conduct a Blower Test!!

Shayne Heskin working hard to learn how to conduct a Blower Test!!


Close up photo of gauge being used in 2002 solar house.

Close up photo of gauge being used in 2002 solar house.

Halycon Shades in the Chameleon House

Halycon shades were connected to our Chameleon Automation system. The shades pull down and can still let visable light in but keep heat out. This is because any heat from the sun and UV rays do truly affect indoor climate. With this product 99.9% of the UV rays are blocked. The Halycon Shades are just a little transparent at night so it would still be advisable to hang curtains by them. That way all you have to do is pull curtains shut to help keep more privacy within the home at night. This was added to help the techniques in the house of being more sustainable and to help save energy in regards to heating or cooling. The Chameleon automation system knows the times when the house is puling peak energy in from the solar panels, the temperature on the outside and inside, then also what the occupant prefers. Then automatically the shades will draw down in accordance with how to help the house keep cool by blocking sunlight, or to stay up to help keep rooms warm. Halycon shades have little motors in them that aid in the automatic process. The shade motors hooked up to our Chameleon system encourage the overall home to be more energy efficient because the home is using techniques to adapt to the environment. Its all about that adaptable lifestyle with this home. Any reduction of use on our small duct- chiller system the better. Blocking out sunlight with normal shades in a traditional home is a way to help with passive solar techniques. The shades simply block light to prevent unnecessary heating of the home. The difference with our shades is heat gets blocked but light still comes through. We could still see outside as if you have open windows in the daytime but don’t have to deal with heat. They are a LEED certified product and this means a potential customer can trust that  Product information can be found at

The shade with the motor on kitchen window in the Chameleon House. It is currently being rolled down.

The shade with the motor on kitchen window in the Chameleon House. It is currently being rolled down.

Bottom edge of window shade shows how nice and sturdy it is.

Bottom edge of window shade shows how nice and sturdy it is.





Hyload modified PVC membrane

This is an awesome product that graced the roof of our Chameleon House. This was an element that was put on our flat roof to block out water, and serve as a physical buffer between panels and the roof. This served as a great staging area for the home in conjunction with the solar panel set up. Another purpose it served well for was to prevent actual leaks and to aid in the movement of water off of the roof. Modified PVC membranes have many advantages that range from being lightweight and easy to manage, to having a very good seam strength. The fact that we have to transport our Chameleon House to California meant that any kind of element on the roof has to have a certain sense of give so to say. The tough, durable, and flexible characteristics are what is required for our Chameleon House. The Modified PVC membrane can restrict movement without having any type of cracking or splitting within the roofing material. Our roof membrane was a white color, to help reflect sunlight thus adding to the element of passive solar use. The PVC hyload membrane serves a better job of being more efficient verses the alternative black roofs that most homes utilize. The darker roofs add a lot of extra unnecessary heat because the dark color basically absorbs the sunlight and holds a huge build up of heat. Keeping a lighter color on the roof is ideal because solar panels are more efficient at cooler temperatures anyway.






Looking at the pictures you can see the students on top of the Hyload PVC membrane and the other picture shows the white membrane overhanging one of the Chameleon House sections.

Tower Garden Produce aided in Chameleon House Dinner

During the solar decathlon we had to host a dinner party for 8. This was a chance to show off our house and at the same time compete. The stove and oven had to be in working order along with having a comfortable sitting room temperature. The display of lights had to be on to better show how our house had a warm ambiance with the perfect placement of light features. Team members cooked for representatives from other teams and a VIP guest. Our Very Important Person was Chancellor Schrader. She helped us host a very successful dinner made by our own Chameleon House Crew. The fancy menu that was created included tasty treats such as salmon, rice, green beans, and wong- tong appetizers. Peanut-butter chocolate pie was the delicious dessert that many people chowed down on. The Solar House chefs included fresh herbal items from our tower garden donated from Missouri S and T alum Paul Sticker. This tower garden was on display through out the Solar Decathlon event and added a homey natural element to our home. Not to mention the variety of herbs added a nice aroma to the house. “Dr.Paul” says that the benefits are all around for this thing and boy do we agree. We used this self-sustaining eco-friendly product and fell in love. It Uses 90% less water and nutrients than traditional growing. The tower garden is beyond organic and also grows 20 plants in 30 to 50% less time than soil. Water conservation, food safety, land scarcity, and soil deprivation are problems we all face today on a global scale. But with this easy to use tower garden those issues can be met head on. Not only doing your part to make this world a better place but you can personally benefit from the natural foods with the healthy nutrients they provide.

To learn more and gain one of these towers for yourself Check out the website  please contact Paul at 619-867-2403 or email at . To gain more insider tips on farming please feel free to contact our very own Missouri S & T alum. Paul would love to give advice about perhaps making your own herbal garden.  You will become a professional chef just like the Solar House team in no time at all with the aid of this herbal garden. Here they are pictured below working those all nighters with the team!!! Thanks alum for the love!!!

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These herb towers would look great on a porch or solarium. Pictured here are Solar house team members Bobby Folk and Chris Bowe. They are taste testing and tending to the easy to care for garden. We placed a short garden in the sun-room and the pictured one is on the front porch. Above their heads you can see the bi-facial solar panels. The other picture is the table set up for our dinner in the Chameleon House with VIP Chancellor Schrader.


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Air Ducts in the Chameleon House

The Unico system® was added into our Chameleon House and I must say that we loved it for the high effective efficiency. The supply and sound attenuator duct is a small duct high velocity system.  It mixes air verses slowly permeating like with what happens with a conventional system. This makes the air flow even faster with a more even temperature through out the home.  There is a fast air exchange, with old air for new air being switched out at a rapid pace. The rapid switching of outside and inside air is very important in the fact that we have such a well-engineered house that results with a very air tight home. Another benefit of this product is how it is a fairly silent product overall. The reason for this is that there is the addition of a Unico sound attenuator that gets added to the end of a branch run. The combination of the sound control elements, insulation to prevent condensation from forming and the flexibility of the supply tubing made for an easy to install duct system overall that fits into any space. Over traditional HVAC systems this product eliminates drafts and can reduce the relative humidity in an additional thirty percent.

Personal experiences from the team say that this is a very easy to install. There was great response from the public tours as well during the Solar Decathlon 2013 held out in Irving, California.  They loved how the team blended the ducts in with our cloud like system that was put in the ceiling to serve as a sound absorber. The public also liked how cool our home felt at the end of the day in the hot California sun.  Upon entering the Chameleon House for tours people immediately noticed how along with a combination of our concrete flooring, placing of windows and this small duct high velocity system an overall comfortable living environment could be displayed and felt.

For more information for the interested parties please visit

Pictured below is the team installing exit vent outlets and the duct work. The Mylar outer layers of the piping is what can be seen in the background.

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Save the Rainforest with Solar Power!

Any thing to help stop illegal logging is extremely important. There is now technology for smartphones combined with solar power to help watch over the rainforest and catch the bad guys. It’s always a challenge to watch over big amounts of land for banned logging activity. So, any kind of advancement towards combating these problems is a breath of fresh air. There is going to be a combined network of solar smartphones listening in to the noises of the rainforest and distinguishing the sound of chainsaws. They will be placed around the rainforest sporadically and work continuously. The phones can hear chainsaw motors in an area over .5km radius and this real time data will be sure to catch illegal logging.

It takes no time at all for some illegal logging to take a huge toll on protected ecosystems. Current methods can take time because its just using satellites to look for swaths of cleared land. This is slow and only useful after the damage is done. By the time someone can attempt to stop the chainsaws the loggers are well on their way. Having the real time network set up of smartphones all equipped to listen to audio frequencies gives conservation agents a fighting chance. These smart phones will then send out alerts when the audio of chainsaws gets picked up. A non-profit called the Rainforest Connection will be utilizing this first in Western Sumatra. They will be the ones in charge of an internet- based central database but alerts get sent to agents in charge of individual sections of forest.

Rainforest Connection will start out with 15 Android phones but hopes to create a stream of reuse by accepting outdated smartphones for this project. That is such a great way to not only save the rainforest but keep electronic waste out of the landfill. The main goal is to not only save the forest but to allow expansion of new technologies by allowing crowd sourced projects. The more systems set up the better! If you send your contact information along with the phone donation, Rain Forest Connection will be able to tell you exactly where your phone is being put to use.

To donate your old phone send it to:

Rainforest Connection

799 Clayton Street

San Francisco, CA, 94117, USA

article review by Julie Glenn

This is the link to give you more information about this clever innovation.

Stop!!! Before you throw away your old smart phone mail it in to save the rainforest!!!

Stop!!! Before you throw away your old smart phone mail it in to save the rainforest!!!


Ameren UE helps to create a dream come true for a small restaurant!

Outside patio with a view of the Saint Louis Arch in the background!! The Gate way to the West!!!

Outside patio with a view of the Saint Louis Arch in the background!! The Gate way to the West!!!

A cute little establishment in Saint Louis is making that big leap to going solar and they are going about it in a unique way with the help of Ameren UE, which is a power company! They are building solar canopy carports in their parking lot adjacent to the Ameren property in Saint Louis. Vin de Set is a French restaurant in a historic building that dates to 1876 and owned by Paul and Wendy Hamilton.  The building is known as the Centennial Malt House and originally it housed the Schnaider Brewing Company.  There are other things currently housed in this building such as Moulin event spaces and a PW Pizza as well. Vin de Set is the place to be for that view of downtown Saint Louis, view of the Arch, good food, fancy drinks and now a chance to see a Solar Panel array.  Solar technology on this historic premise is to be deep in progress by the end of September. The photovoltaic system is expected to be 25- kilowatts and the carport canopy will cover a long row of vehicles. This canopy backs up to the east side of the lot and Ameren UE will buy any extra power from the restaurant. The cost of the project will be $98,000 but there are a lot of things in place currently to help lower the cost. Some federal help will be through the Solar Investment Tax Credit and Ameren offers a $2 per watt of installed solar capacity. Ameren will offer this amount up to $50,000 via project installment.  If you are ever in Saint Louis be sure to stop by this fun restaurant called Vin de Set and treat mom or your significant other to good eats. Of course the ultimate treat in my books would be to check out the Solar Carport Canopy and sip on some wine!!

Check out the Ameren UE website and get in contact with them before you do your own solar project! There very well could be rebate programs connected with this awesome utility company. They even have a get started page to really help your home or business along.

Restaurant website:

By Julie Glenn

Chameleon House usage of Enershield

Almost applied all the way with second coat!!

Almost applied all the way with second coat!!

On our Chameleon house we have use of an awesome material called BASF© EnerShield©. It is a system that creates a pretty good air and water- resistive barrier on most wall assemblies. Enershield goes on in a liquid manner by just being painted on. Quick application with a paint roller is quiet luxurious. For such an easy application this sustainable material accomplishes a lot. Utilizing the EnerShield is a step to reduce use of extra insulation like products. Some bragging rights we will have with this product is that the air barriers really do reduce building energy consumption by up to 40%. We are very proud of the fact that its water based and when being applied was not undergoing any scary exothermic reactions and not flammable in liquid form. The usage of this helps to reduce emissions that much more. The Enershield has VOC levels that are below maximum levels allowed by USGBC LEED program.  This has been painted all around the exterior of our house in a couple of layers and does have a fairly nice consistency.  Here are some pictures of before and after shots.  To see all the methods and watch some “how to videos” please check out the company website. The site even goes into detail with how to treat joints when using Enershield.

Blog by Julie Glenn

Side in the shade has been painted.

Side in the shade has been painted.

Close up Shot!!!

Close up Shot!!!



Solar Village Green House Highlight

Lavender is something of a last minute add to the Solar Village Green House but has really been a hit. This plant will actually emit a nice warm aroma and acts as a natural perfume so to say. It truly makes the green house more inviting because every time one opens the door they get a good whiff of lavender. The seeds taste as good as they smell. You can add it to vanilla ice cream or even plane yogurt. This combination will give you a smile for the day. Another tip is to collect the seeds and make sure they are dry. Then put them in a little mesh baggy and tie off with a bow. Put this in your car for a nice inviting natural air freshener. The fragrance lasts forever and has not faded out on me after a year. This acts as a great little goody bag for whatever function you may have. The all natural car fragrance that lasts forever.

Ingredient list for Lavender Frozen Yogurt just blend all together and serve:

Plain yogurt 3/4 cup

Blueberries 1/4 cup

Almond Milk 2 cups

Lavender 20 little flowers

Honey 1 tablespoon

Ice cubes 5 big ones

Natural Car Fragrance!

Natural Car Fragrance!

Lavender Frozen Yougurt

   Lavender Frozen Yogurt




Solar Village Tenants Raise Money for New Chameleon House

The solar village residents made an item for the silent auction in an attempt to make more money for the current Solar House project. They all agreed to make different dishes utilizing ingredients from the green house and prepare a fabulous meal. Christina Adams from the Environmental Research Center won that dinner bid. The dinner turned out to be a high class blast with enough food for her family and the village tenants. Along with her humor Christiana even added to the dinner meat from her grass fed cows!  Fried Zucchini and a couple of vegetable dishes can be seen in this picture below.

Fried Zucchini is fairly easy to make. All it takes is breading it and letting it fry a little in corn oil. Put enough corn oil in pan to cover bottom and put on high heat. When frying make sure to always have something in the pan sizzling. Bread the zucchini by mixing a couple of eggs, flour and water. You can use milk instead of water if you would like a little different consistency to the breading. After dipping the sliced zucchini, fry it golden brown and add salt. This all takes literally like fifteen minutes to do and is tasty!

One of the vegetable dishes was a salad dressing mixture of vinegar and olive oil. It involved the combination of onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs. By Julie Glenn

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