Award-winning Va. Tech Solar House at Science Museum

By Andrew Freiden - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -- Our early April heat wave had us turning on our air conditioning units earlier than normal this year -- making our electric bills go up.

OK -- no one lives in the 800 square-foot, award-winning 2005 Virginia Tech solar house, which is at the Science Museum of Virginia. But when the sun is shining and the air conditioning is cranking, the electric bill is zero.

"The Virginia Tech team in 2005 won for dwelling and architecture -- That is livability and design," said David Hagan of the Science Museum of Virginia.

Hagan is proud to show it off -- a home packed with the technology of the future and some old-fashioned tricks.  Skylights let in cool, indirect northern light while the hot summer sun is blocked by an overhang.

"In the winter, sunlight streams in and bathes the inside north wall," he said.

The solar panels provide power for the geothermal heat pump. And on sunny days, the home produces extra electricity for use by the Science Museum.  The home of the future produces power for others to use.

"They take DC from the photovoltaic on the roof, convert it to AC, synchronized to the power grid," Hagan said. "Electrical generation can be clean, can be quiet, can be affordable."

And when it's cloudy, this house draws electricity from the grid. The walls are made of futuristic polycarbonate.

"Filled with aero-gel, the lightest solid substance known to science.  It's an excellent insulator. Used by NASA in the space shuttle," he said.

If the translucent walls let in too much light, you can lower a shade that's inside the wall.  Futuristic, but with the comforts of home.

You can see it for yourself at the Science Museum of Richmond -- tours are available every Tuesday and Thursday.

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