Lumenhaus – VA Tech Student Model House
Energy demand is down because we’re growing more efficient – because we have had to become more efficient.
Another trend is we are turning to the sun for energy and to other renewables.
There are plenty who think solar and energy efficiency is a fad but our fuel sources below the ground – coal and oil and gas - are not only dirty and toxic energy sources, they are limited, as reflected by how we have to scheme and war to acquire oil especially and foul the air we breathe and the water we drink here at home to produce this dirty energy.
Some are so entrenched in old technologies (we call this “the dark ages”) and the propagandizing newspeak of the energy industry (“drill baby drill”) that they resist change because it means they’ll have to make adjustments and the fossil fuel companies will suffer smaller profits over time if they don’t convert to renewables themselves.
If you want to be encouraged that the future has promise, and has already arrived, you should acquaint yourself with Virginia Tech’s prize-winning model solar home, aptly called, Lumenhaus, “lumen” for light and “haus” for house (also a reference to the Bauhaus architectural movement).
It’s an 800 square foot single level one-bedroom home that is open to extended decks outside (weather permitting) with a double efficient solar cell system on the roof that collects enough power-packed photons from Ol Sol to run the house, making the house energy a net of zero, no more energy expended than taken in from the sun.
The solar cell system is interesting because it uses both sides of the cells to increase energy output by up to 15 percent and the system tilts to the maximum optimum angle to receive energy. A geothermal heat pump heats and cools the home. You reduce artificial lighting in the home by how the home is oriented and designed to allow for a day-lit home. There is a two-layered advanced shading system, Eclipsis, that automatically opens and closes depending on the weather conditions.
You can control the various energy systems and the shades (by your own preference) with a smart phone or iPad, so if you forgot to turn off the lights or turn down the thermostat when you reach your office, you can make the adjustments without going back home. You might find a virtual tour of the Lumenhaus interesting - http://www.lumenhaus.com/experience/index.html .
Your reaction may be, sure, but when will there be such houses that we can buy?
The time is now.
Nexus Energy Homes is building 55 solar homes, with about 2,700 square feet in space, in the mid-$200,000s in the historic North Pointe neighborhood in Frederick, Maryland (http://homesatnorthpointe.com/ ).
These homes rely on solar panels (20 panels each), geothermal heating, structural insulation, and a sophisticated computer system (unique to each home) to maintain net-zero homes very much like the Virginia Tech students’ Lumenhaus; in fact, the house can be operated from a smartphone or laptop. Another sweetener is that these Nexus Energy Homes are also eligible for 5-figure energy efficiency state and federal tax credits.
Solar will yet lead the way and we’ll all be better for it.
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