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 www.halcyonshades.com

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  www.SoCalUrbanFarms.com  please contact Paul at 619-867-2403 or email at SoCalUrbanFarms@gmail.com . 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!!!

IMAG2421  IMAG2422 IMAG2423

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.


SHT - 11-20-13 006

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.

Thumbnail image for p3.jpg

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.


Master Picture Index

I am trying to put together a master folder of all the pictures taken of our house before, during and after competition. If you have ANY pictures, please drop me an e-mail sunhome@mst.edu.