Evacuated Tubes Installation!

Let me take you back to just after the 2009 competition: Finals are coming up, and then it’s winter break! Not only that, but the RFP is out for the 2011 competition and we are focusing our energy on producing a competitive entry. After the report is complete and submitted, we are notified that a 3D model and a display board describing our concept are also required. In the mean time, the house foundation is not yet completed, and the home sits in storage. The foundation is completed, and the house is moved to its home in the Solar Village on S&T’s campus during the summer of 2010. A few team members are hired to work with Physical Facilities to get the village up and running- a lot important projects are finished that summer. Over the next school year we focus on training new team members and working on a plan for the 2013 proposal. Many students perfect their practical skills by working on getting the automation system and photovoltaic panels up and running throughout the school year while staying on top of other team projects and submittals. However, all of the houses systems are still not running.

We have been privledged to have 4 previous Solar Decathlon houses to learn from. With the 2009 house being office and research space for the team, we can work on anything needed without disturbing any residents. A few dedicated members worked on installing the Apricus evacuated tube system for hot water from the sun in June 2011. We are proud to say that the most of the ’09 systems are now up and running. During the construction phase of competition installation of systems is often rushed and managed by a few experience members. Now we can teach new members about installation and operation- and take as much time as we need! 
2011-06-08_20-27-08_395.jpg Apricus Installation_2011

Solar House goes to the EPA P3 Expo!

After a quick run in with TSA questioning if we were transporting a baby seal, the home automation team made it to Washington DC to present their project in hopes of winning a Phase II EPA P3 grant.

Back on the same National Mall that is home to the Solar Decathlon every other year, the team has set up a display of their project along with 50 other P3 teams from accross the country.  The first round of judging went well and the team is getting ready for the final round tomorrow.  The public is invited to view the exhibits Saturday and Sunday before the awards ceremony.

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Dr. Baur, Ben Brannon and Austin Murdock at the P3 Expo

Top Questions from D.C.

In the spirit of education, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 questions we receive during public tours.  If we added some new signs, we could probably reduce the amount we have to talk by about 90% or just send the 21 year old team members bar-hopping for the day.

In the spirit of being tired after a few long weeks of work, we’ve also added the responses we’d like to give to mix things up a bit…

1.  What is the wood the cabinets are made out of?
Real Answer:  It’s actually manufactured from reclaimed sorghum straw and low VOC, no formaldehyde adhesive.  It extends our design concept (expanding horizons) because of the long straight lines in the grain, and is a green material from the Midwest as well.
After a Long Day:  “It’s actually pure magic.”  We’d offer a longer, more creative explanation, but we’d be hoarse since we get this one from almost everybody.

2.  What are those things on the walls?
Real Answer:  Those are custom made lighting fixtures that we installed efficient LED lighting in.  They’re made entirely from recycled steel and glass as well.
After a Long Day:  “Take a stab at it…they are plugged in to the wall and giving off a warm, yellowish glow that happens to light up the area…”

3.  How do you water the plants?
Real Answer:  Our custom automation system (Chameleon) has soil moisture content sensors that it reads.  If the soil is to dry, a soaker hose running underneath the plants will turn on and water them until the desired content is reached.
After a Long Day:  This one depends.  If you just got the 10 minute pitch on the automation system, we’re likely to ignore you since we already talked about it.  If you skipped the pitch on automation, we’re likely to ignore you because you’d know the answer if you had listened.  Guess it doesn’t really depend.

4.  Are these cement countertops?
Real Answer:  We chose concrete countertops due to their durability and because it’s recyclable.  It also helps us to keep the price down as it’s cheaper than other common counter materials such as granite.
After a Long Day:  That would be awfully tough since cement is just a binding agent.  If you mix it with aggregate and water, you get the wonder material that we used.

5.  What are the fins on the sides of the house?
Real Answer:  They’re called louvers, and are rather popular in other countries and on some larger commercial buildings here.  Because of the changing angle of the sun through seasons, they block direct sunlight during the summer and allow most to pass during the winter.
After a Long Day:  We have to drive our house down the highway to D.C.  These are for aerodynamics to make it easier on the truck.

6.  Does the drain work?
Real Answer:  Yes.  The shower area is sloped down to it to make sure we don’t have standing water.  As it runs the length of the bathroom, it can handle the flow from the shower, and it’s slightly dammed as well to keep water from spilling over.  We chose this type of drain due to the universal design aspect of the home…anybody can get into the shower.
After a Long Day:  No.  The company decided to mass market a product that doesn’t work and we thought we’d support them because we respected the brash attempt.

7.  Why is there a screen behind the mirror?
Real Answer:  It is actually an energy saving measure.  By getting headlines, weather, sports scores, stocks (et al) through a very low power draw device, you’re minimizing the usage of traditional, high power draw devices such as a TVs or computers.  Plus, it’s awesome.
After a Long Day:  Toilet + Shower + TV means all you need is a beer cooler and you’ll never have to leave the bathroom.  We’re only one step away…

8.  What are the tubes on the roof?
Real Answer:  We generate our electricity through the flat PV panels on the roof.  The tubes allow us to heat water without using our electricity, which is far more efficient.  There is a copper tube that goes into the manifold at the top, which in turn heats a closed loop of a hydroglycolic mixture.  That in turn radiates up and heats the domestic hot water for the home, and the water used for our hydronic radiant floor system.
After a Long Day;  They’re huge Pixie Sticks.  Go try to eat one.

Okay, so it’s not quite the top 10 list I promised, but it’s been a long day ;-).

In all seriousness though, we actually like answering questions.  We’ve worked on the project for the past two years to raise public awareness and because we love the idea behind it.  Keep asking questions, and we promise to give you the real answer (though you may have to sit through the others first).


Tours Continue / Rubbing Elbows with the Big Wigs

Public tours continued today, and everything seems to be going well.  The Universal Design component of the house continues to be noticed.

Universal Design has been appreciated by most visitors.
In addition to working hard, the team got the opportunity to interact with former school Alumni.  Several area alumni attended for VIP tours and a nice dinner afterward.  Some even flew in town to join.

S&T Alums tour the 2009 house

Even the Chancellor came out to show his support for the project and give an update on the status of S&T.

Even the Chancellor made it out...

Oh, and there’s a people’s choice award with text message voting up and running.  To vote for us, text House32 to 99503.  A listing of the other teams and their house numbers can be found on the Solar Decathlon website (www.solardecathlon.org).

Let the Games Begin

After a week of late nights and sleep deprivation, the house is complete!  The Show-Me Solar team was the 9th to pass its final inspections last evening, and started a mad dash to beautify the house (we’d  never seen so many college students cleaning at once before).

The day wasn’t without difficulties however.  After finalizing code and running tests, the automation team encountered several problems.  One of the Pico computers crashed, a CF card went bad, the lighting system went down, a few sensors went bad, and without warning, the primary controller that the team had been using for the past year blew out.  The team managed to get everything rerouted to the secondary controller and recompiled the code just before the 10:00pm deadline. The broken sensors and parts were replaced just in time as well.

And so that everybody can see how awesome we are, a few pictures…

Pictures from the S&T house in D.C.


Tied In

As of late last evening, the team is grid tied on the National Mall.  Passing inspections early allowed us to grid tie about 12 hours ahead of schedule, and also earned us a 29 kWh bonus for pre-competition metering.

A few things went haywire after being tied in, but everything seems to be under control now.  In an effort to conserve energy, the night team will now be working days and taking advantage of natural light (which they haven’t seen in quite some time).

As things come down to the wire, it looks like the team is in good shape.  Maintaining an internet connection remains one of our bigger problems…so stay tuned for another post at a random time when we have one.

First Update from DC

We’ve arrived.  The team actually made it into Washington DC last week, but we’ve had limited internet access thus far.

After some minor vehicle troubles, our caravan of vehicles arrived on the National Mall.  Our house was actually the first to arrive, and we were the first to have our crane up as well.  Things are progressing on schedule.

If everything continues to go as planned, we’ll have internet on site in the next few days.  At that point, you can expect daily updates and pictures as well.


The House is On its Way!

There were a few hickups as the team was preparing for the house to ship, but it finally got on the road, on its way to DC.  We had to do some redesign for the pick points on Tuesday afternoon so that we could fold down our roof.  Wednesday the roof was down just before the rain hit.
That left us all day Wednesday to move our house out into the street for the semi to drive underneath.  The good news was we had all day, the bad news was that it rained, all day long.  we were hoping it would let up around 2 so we started then but the rain still persisted.  We worked till late hours to get our house out into the street.
The Solar House barely avoids a stop sign.

Friday morning at 6:45 I got a call from the truck driver wanting to know the specifics of where to go for our load.  The driver was an hour early but that was ok by us.  We spent all day lifting the house, then strapping it down, shrink wrapping it and putting a few tarps on it. 
The hectic part of it was that the trailer we received was a foot higher than the one speced out on the bid.  So we had to do some creative driving and moving of communication lines to get our house out of Rolla.  In addition, Friday night the sun was setting fast so we had to postpone it till Saturday morning. So Saturday morning there was one car left in the way before the house could be on its way, so we had to get it towed.  A bit after 9:30 the house was gone and everyone rejoiced.
The Show-Me Solar team shares a group hug after seeing the house off

Now we are finishing up loose ends and cleaning up our site.  Next time we see the house hopefully it will be in one piece on the national mall!

Luke Sudkamp

Friday’s Sucess!

Friday was a very early day for those in Rolla. We started construction at 5 in the morning so we could get some of the siding on the house. I don’t want to say anything terrible, but I don’t think the siding matches the look we were trying to go for. But what can I say… I am not an architect.


Everything started out well until it started raining about 7 a.m. We hurried to get most of the tools safe in the trailer or house, and in the process Dominic got a little shock… but is OK.  Thank goodness the rain only lasted about 15 minutes. After the rain we were able to get back to putting the siding on the house.


At around 8 a.m., Missouri Builders Service, Inc. arrived and began installing the roof. Yes, we do have a roof finally. I am glad everyone on the site was wearing their hardhats, because the roofers were tearing up the roof felt and just dropping it off the sides of the roof. They worked hard all day and were finished by 12:30.

After lunch, we decided to try and make a temporary tent over the area we were going to be working at. We used a tarp, the side of the house, and two ladders. It kind of worked, but there wasn’t much of a breeze, so it was still pretty hot. The team worked until about 4:30. Although we didn’t finish the siding, we did get a lot of it done. We would have gone a little further, but we ran out of nails and decided to call it a day.


I want to thank everyone who was out there on Friday for all of their hard work and dedication.

-Amber Gomaz

We Have Windows and Drywall

Exciting news, yesterday we got all of our windows delivered from Quaker.  They came in around 1pm when Cory and I unloaded them and brought them into the bedroom for storage.  We received a total of 34 windows and they all look great.  You are probably wondering, wow that is a lot of windows, and you are right!  we have 16 ribbon windows going along the top of the north wall and 16 more along the south, plus two kitchen windows.  Take a look at our renderings at our website www.solarhouse.mst.edu

Also we got our drywall delivered today thanks the the generous donation of USG.  The delivery truck from River City Materials came around 3pm and unloaded it all in one load to the front of our house.  It was wrapped up before delivery, but we made sure to put a tarp on it just in case.  So if you are looking at our webcams the big blue object in front is the drywall.

I want to thank Quaker and USG for their generous support of our project!