The way things are going, the American Dream might soon be to own your own solar house – one that’s capable of charging your own electric car. Students at the University of Missouri-Rolla have built such a house and they’re working on another.
Members of the UMR Solar House Team are putting the final touches on a new house, which will be entered in the 2005 Solar Decathlon Oct. 7-16 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Team members have been building the house on campus since January. The construction site is located off of State Street in Rolla, across the street from UMR’s Campus Support Facility. The general public is invited to an open house event, including tours of the solar house, from 2-6 p.m. Friday, Sept 9. The team will begin preparations for shipping the house on large trucks to Washington, D.C., the following day. Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 29, the students will have four days to rebuild the UMR house on the National Mall in anticipation of the Solar Decathlon.
A total of 18 teams from colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and Spain have entered the 2005 competition, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and other organizations and corporations. The UMR house will be situated next to the house from the University of Michigan, winner of the 2005 North American Solar Challenge involving solar cars. UMR was the defending champion in that race.
The houses entered in the Solar Decathlon are judged in architecture, livability and comfort categories. The houses are also ranked in power generation categories, including heating and cooling, lighting, and running appliances. Finally, each solar house must also be able to power an electric car.
While some of the houses in the Solar Decathlon’s “solar village” will have a very modern look, the new UMR house has a traditional design. It has 550 square feet of living space, which includes a living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and closets.
About 50 solar panels line the roof to capture energy as efficiently as possible. The panels heat water and produce electricity.
“The practical energy savings are significant,” says UMR’s project leader Joel Lamson, a graduate student in mechanical engineering from Orange, Calif.
But it’s not cheap to build a house for the Solar Decathlon. The new UMR house cost about $110,000, a figure that doesn’t include the free labor used during construction. Another $90,000 has been budgeted to transport it to Washington, D.C., and back.
The house built for the 2002 competition, which now soaks up rays in a Rolla neighborhood near campus, is used for research. But it also has a renter.
Solar house team member Natalie McDonald, an architectural engineering and civil engineering major from New Baden, Ill., is renting and monitoring the 2002 house while she attends UMR.
“It’s a lot better than where most students live,” says McDonald, who adds that she prefers a traditional design because a solar house should be built for people who might actually want to live in one.