Team Orange County’s entry into this year’s Solar Decathlon addresses some of the issues found in the Southern California home market, including the use of solar energy and landscaping without water.
Casa del Sol, as their entry is called, is inspired by the resilient and diurnal characteristics of the California poppy. It is designed with appropriate shading and natural ventilation to allow it to open and close in tune to the path of the sun. Strategically positioned windows automatically open to capture southwestern ocean breezes, keeping the home cool and shaded from the sun during the day.
Other features include the south-facing veranda, the ceiling halo with a retractable tensile structure, and the eastern brise soleil (or shade) that also serves as protection against the destructive Santa Ana winds. The centralized energy-management control system helps residents operate Casa del Sol in the most energy-efficient manner.
The house features a moveable wall system that can adjust the space to meet the residents’ needs. The flexible floor plan allows residents to use the space as an extension of the great room (living room and kitchen) or as a separate enclosed spaced to function as a bedroom, storage room or private study.
Smart grid ready, the home utilizes a bidirectional inverter to make use of both AC grid power and DC power generated from solar panels. An innovative inverter is able to directly use DC power from the solar panels to charge an electric vehicle.
An evaporative chiller and heat pump both chill water that runs in the home’s ceilings to provide air conditioning. To increase efficiency, the heat pump rejects its waste heat into the hot water tank. Additionally, the heat pump can provide ducted heating and cooling when needed. Solar thermal collectors not only heat water, but also help to provide heat for the dryer.
The house addresses the recent California drought through the use of an edible xeriscape landscape to provide food for the home and filter gray water. Water from sinks and showers is used to water the edible garden that is specially designed for drought conditions. The plants and soil serve as a filter, removing contaminants at the same time as the plants receive precious water.
Additionally, a rainwater collection system directs any rain that falls on the home’s roof to several tanks on the side of the house. The tanks are made out of an FDA-approved potable non-off gassing plastic, a safer material than that used in most plastic water storage tanks. The stored water can be used for flushing toilets or as an emergency water source.
Source and Photos: Team Orange County, Solar Decathlon