As the Solar Decathlon of 2011 kicks off, sustainable fundis around the world wait in anticipation to see how solar energy is going to be utilised in the homes. The decathlon is held to show how architecturally attractive homes can be built using minimal resources. The homes need to be cost effective, energy efficient, and use the power of solar energy, as well be attractive in appearance.
The theme of this year’s competition involves combining the latest in photovoltaic solar energy, building materials and technology when designing and constructing these houses. The houses will then be shipped to Washington DC where they will be put on display for the general public to see how renewable solar energy systems can be used without compromising on stylish design.
Each house has to be powered entirely by solar energy so in order to heat the interiors of the houses they will need to use solar heating systems. An additional limitation has been put on the houses which insists that cost of construction may not exceed $250 000. This will make them more accessible to the everyday user and not restrict it to wealthier individuals who can afford the installation of solar energy systems.
The designs must also include the latest energy efficient appliances, as well as LED light bulbs and solar energy panels. Heavy insulation and making the building air tight are additional aspects used to ensure better efficiency in terms of heating, and has the added benefit of lowering the overall energy consumption. Because the power to the home is only supplied by solar energy products such as photovoltaic and solar hot water panels, it is essential that appliances and so on be as energy efficient as possible. Water conservation is another concern and many of the houses have rainwater collection tanks for this purpose.
Each year these products become more mainstream and more accessible to the general public, proving that solar energy can and does work and that more people are beginning to use it.