Traditional Appalachian settlements inspired the design of the Solar Homestead. Six modules resembling the form of lean-to sheds connect at a central porch—an outdoor living space covered by an 8.2-kilowatt trellis of bifacial solar cells. “Our biggest push was to integrate solar technology into the architecture,” says Chelsea Royall, an Appalachian State University graduate student. Inside, the 864-square-foot house features two bedrooms, a day-lit bathroom, energy-efficient appliances, and a versatile living and dining area. A separate, 120-square-foot flex space includes a half-bath and serves as a home office, art studio, or guest quarters. The house’s most innovative technological component is a Latent Energy Storage and Exchange Device—an on-demand, solar thermal, domestic hot-water system with a compact 60-gallon storage container that uses phase-change materials to provide constant water temperature. “We’ve applied for a provisional patent on it,” says faculty adviser Jamie Russell. “It stores the same amount of heat as 150 gallons of hot water.” The team also adapted conventional Trombe wall technology by constructing a translucent wall made of movable, aluminum tubes filled with phase-change material that stores and releases heat, yet allows light to penetrate. The team kept costs down by using materials such as plywood flooring in the studio, off-the-shelf pressure-treated decking, and lauan paneling for interior walls.
Estimated cost: $342,324.86