One of the places we can get ideas for what’s ‘coming down the pike’ in energy-efficient home ideas is from what the government says it likes. One such venue is US Dept. of Energy (DOE) and their annual Solar Decathlon, a contest open to college teams in which they have an opportunity to show what they can do in designing, building and operating homes solar-powered homes that highlight the latest and best technologies and practices for energy-efficiency, attractiveness and cost-effectiveness. Winners are selected based on the best blend of consumer appeal, affordability, design excellence and (of course) optimal energy production, consumption and overall efficiency.
This recent year’s contest (2013) was held in Irvine, CA. and the winner was (who would have guessed?) the Vienna University of Technology in Vienna, Austria with their design called “Living by Sustainable Innovation” (AKA: LISI) which was indeed a beautiful home.
Of course most if not all of these homes were outstanding but this particular home included the following features:
- A modular, wooden frame which made it quick and easy to erect, saving time minimizing labor costs.
- An innovative automatically controlled and activated screen and awning system, both outside and within the home, which prevents heat from entering the home and keeps living spaces much cooler, more comfortable and save energy.
- An herb-garden (to keep the humans healthier) watered from the homes’own rain-water reservoir.
- Not one, but two air/water heat pumps which provide energy efficient heating and cooling of indoor spaces to keep the humans comfortable and make living there enjoyable.
- A special recovery system to not only purify the air but also recover excess energy, usually lost in warm or hot air, that escapes.
- A special heat-energy recovery unit tray that captures and recycles heat energy lost through hot or warm shower.
As one would expect, the home was very beautifully furnished with lots of wood floors and plenty of glass to give it an airy, natural, ‘open’ feeling. The event was very well attended and many of these ideas either are or will soon be available to homeowners throughout the US, Canada and elsewhere.