2013 Solar Decathlon AMECO Staff Favorites


Last Sunday, the AMECO Solar team attended the Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. We walked through the Solar Village where 19 solar-powered, energy efficient homes were designed and built by collegiate teams from around the world.

While it was inspiring to see the students’ innovative approach to solar electric and thermal installation, we were most impressed by their enthusiasm about solar energy and energy efficiency. You could see they took pride in their work and were enthusiastic to share the knowledge gained over the two years it took to prepare for the competition. AMECO Solar staff came away from the event with some favorites.

West Virginia University’s PEAK

The home was designed as a modern take on a typical Appalachian home with cabin-like features and lots of wood detailing. It boasts a living garden on the rooftop along with a PV array and solar hot water panels. Energy usage from the entire home can be accessed through a tablet or mobile device so that home owners can track their consumption and adjust their usage accordingly. This home has a particularly cozy atmosphere and seemed the most live-ready. Also, we felt that the overall design has a wider appeal than some of the other uber modern homes in the Solar Village.

University of Southern California’s fluxHome

When you first walk up to the USC solar home, you immediately notice the metal-like covering. It’s a thermally responsive envelope around that house that regulates air flow and provides additional insulation. Inside, the bedrooms open up to the main living area where the kitchen, living room and dining room are all in one large space with a loft-like feel. We like how the solar panels were installed in a discrete way so that they were not visible from the walkway. But, sometimes it’s the little things that count. We were most impressed by the retractable skylight in the bathroom that automatically opens and closes. Not only is the skylight a beautiful architectural accent, but it’s also built for function as it lets warm air exit easily to keep the house cool.

Stanford University’s Start.Home

Knowing that all families are different, Stanford designed a modular home built around a mechanical room that houses the equipment for the solar electric and thermal systems. Home owners can easily customize the home by adding additional bedrooms or offices as needed. We were most intrigued by the prototypes that the team created. For example, each room has a special light switch where you can turn lights on and off with quick swipe (similar to a swipe you would use on an iPad or mobile phone). By swiping the switch with four fingers, you can turn the power off in the specific room allowing for more energy conservation (a lot easier than unplugging all your devices when leaving a room).

Each solar home is measured in 10 different contests ranging from architectural design and market appeal to affordability and energy balance. As of today, Santa Clara University is currently in the running for first place with University of Nevada Las Vegas not far behind.

You can see photos of the solar homes on the AMECO Solar Facebook page. If you are in the Los Angeles or Orange County areas, you still have time to see the event in person. Public viewing hours for the Solar Decathlon start up again today and will extend through the weekend. Visit the Solar Decathlon website for more info.