Net-zero energy consumption is the dream of every environmentally-conscious builder - a goal that is closer to becoming reality with the Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Every other year, the Solar Decathlon brings together 20 teams from universities around the world to design and construct houses with a goal of net-zero energy consumption. The homes are displayed on the Mall in Washington DC, tested and ranked.
For the October 2009 competition, two U.S. teams elected to use Orion Weather Stations to monitor weather parameters for their houses.The weather stations are used for environmental monitoring to improve energy efficiency. With the Weather MicroServer, weather parameters are also used to control automated functions like window shades.
Third place winner was Refract House, a combined effort from Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts. Its theme was "promoting the idea of living light" - harnessing sunlight, lightening the carbon footprint, and enlightening today's consumers.
We are using your weather station for general purpose weather monitoring, as well as to aid in some of the control of our house. Temperature and humidity is used to help aid the HVAC control system in the house. Outdoor temperature and humidity help provide the HVAC system with information to heat and cool the home most efficiently.
The wind sensor is used to help determine when our outdoor shades on our windows need to be retracted because of high winds. When the weather station senses wind over a certain threshold, our control system recognizes this and automatically powers the shades to the up position.
The rain sensor is used to determine if the clerestory windows in our house need to be closed. If the weather station senses rainfall, the control system will power the windows to the closed position.
One of the main reasons we chose the Orion Weather Station was because of the easy connectivity to the rest of our system, and because of its aesthetics. With no moving parts and its small design, we were able to provide our house with accurate weather data while still maintaining its sleek design.
Left - Interior View of Refract House.
Above - Clerestory windows close automatically if the Orion Weather Station detects rainfall.
(All photos courtesy of Santa Clara University.)