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5 Beautiful Solar Powered Houses Around the World. Modern solar homes

5 Beautiful Solar Powered Houses Around the World. Modern solar homes

    Beautiful Solar Powered Houses Around the World

    Think that solar panels might not look good on your roof? Think again. With solar panels coming in more designs and colours, these new additions to your roof will not only save you electricity, but also serve to spruce up the look of your home.

    Over the years, the old-school look of these solar panels have gone through significant improvements and are now way cooler than before! Solar panels now come in a variety of options along with the choice of a black frame instead of the aluminium frames, giving off a sleek but more subtle look. If you’re still iffy about whether solar panels can be beautiful, let’s dive into these 5 beautiful houses that are powered by solar!

    Beautiful Solar Houses in the Americas

    1) Isabella, Minnesota

    This beautiful eco-home is situated in the middle of the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. Annually, it experiences various extreme weather conditions, from chilling winters — when temperatures reach.40 degrees! — to scorching summers. Residents of this home have found a way to manages temperatures in the house using their solar system.

    To provide electricity and to keep the house warm, black solar panels line the sides of the roofs work with 92 solar heat collector vacuum. The house is also equipped with a mechanical heat recovery ventilation system that is powered by its solar panels to expel heat on warm days. These systems ensure proper heat regulation and minimise unwanted heat loss through the walls of the home. Another unique feature of this beautiful solar house is its underground solar thermal storage system with 9000 cubic feet of sand and taconite.

    Fun fact: The original owners of this home experimented with various heat storage techniques in the early days of its construction. As the house was located near the Iron Range — a major iron mining stretch in the US — the constructors of the house brought in 20 trucks full of iron ore to find out if the iron was a good heat retention material. After extensive tests, they decided to go with the sand and gravel present in the house today.

    Beautiful Solar Houses in Asia

    2) 36 BTrd, Singapore

    36 BTrd is a 3 story eco-friendly terrace house in Singapore. The architects of this house wanted to create a home that was cool in the warm Singapore climate but also had good natural lighting. The result was a modern-looking, open concept eco-home that is powered by solar!

    A key feature of this house is the heated photovoltaic (PV) skylight roof that allows for great air circulation and natural ventilation throughout the house. As a self-sustaining home, most electrical functions with the house, including air-conditioning, is power by solar PV panels. Solar thermal systems are also used for water heating. To top it all off, this gorgeous home also features a woody interior with indoor trees to complete its green concept. This entire 3 story home is practically a dream home for environmentalists in Singapore!

    3) Yongin, Korea

    This 4,553 square foot zero-energy home in Yongin, Korea, is the first of its kind in South Korea. It was also the first house to be awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum rating in East Asia. The house possesses a whooping 68 green features to ensure that it consistently sustains its zero-emission target.

    It uses extensive green technology to main high home performance while also reducing energy consumption. The usage of these green systems allows the house to function to its fullest capacity on just 44% of its energy capacity. What’s more, a large majority of this energy required is also generated by renewable sources such as the large array of solar PV panels that cover 1,754 square feet of its rooftop.

    Beautiful Solar Houses in Europe

    4) Bessancourt, France

    This bamboo farmhouse located in a small town in France is truly a sight to behold. Besides its unique exterior, the house is also one of the first passive houses in Europe. The house has a 43 degree-angled bamboo terraced roof with solar PV panels that are skillfully blended in to create a perfect balance between natural and modern. There are a total of 23 panels on the rooftop of this barn house.

    beautiful, solar, powered, houses, world

    5) County Armagh, Northern Ireland

    This contemporary passive house by Paul McAlister Architects embodies the perfect mix of traditional and modern. The design of the house is inspired by traditional Irish farmhouses and features a unique double chimney.

    It’s also equipped with a south-facing rooftop that is ideal for solar panel placement. The black solar panels also blend seamlessly into the dark coloured roofs, giving the house’s top a futuristic look. The property’s glazing orientation also allows sunlight to shine brightly on the house throughout the day. This provides excellent natural light and plenty of solar energy for the household.

    This article was first published on 6 January 2021 and last updated on 30 April 2021 to include additional details.

    Get an Instant Solar Estimate for your Home Now!

    Whether you’re ready to install solar panels on your rooftop, or just wondering how you can benefit from solar, use our instant solar assessment tool to get an estimate of the solar potential of your property and find out how much you can save. At Solar AI, we combine geospatial analysis of satellite imagery with big data and artificial intelligence to provide you with reliable and accurate solar information so that you can make a better solar choice!

    Building A Modern Home With Solar Power | AV Architects

    At AV Architects Builders, when we work with clients, we combine our experience and vision with their dreams to create Vacation Style Living™ that perfectly suits their needs. When it came time to build a home in Arlington, Virginia, our clients challenged us to take our environmental and low maintenance priorities a step further and go solar.

    The Benefits of Installing Solar Power in New Construction

    Solar power is becoming increasingly popular with homeowners around the country. In Northern Virginia, the year-round weather provides enough sunlight to take a home with the right solar power system off the public electrical grid. When that grid is powered by energy like coal or nuclear, this means the solar powered home provides a zero-carbon alternative to electricity. For this custom home, we installed a 22.32kw rooftop system, sized to power the 5,500 square foot home by producing 27 megawatt hours.

    Not only is solar great for the environment, but, in a large house that gets heating in winter and cooling in summer, it takes an electric bill in the hundreds and reduces it to 10 per month. When installing solar in new construction, the user who is financing the project can roll the cost of solar into the mortgage. This leads to a slight increase in the monthly mortgage payment that still winds up with major net savings since the cost of borrowing is cheap compared to the electric bill reduction. In addition, there are tax incentives that make solar power even more attractive.

    How Does Solar Impact a Modern Home?

    Our designs are known for clean lines and minimalism, so a busy rooftop with an obvious slant to support the solar structure might be a detraction. One of AV Architect Builders’ signature design elements is the parapet that we install around the roof edge. It creates the illusion of a flat roof, so that the low slope TPO roof is not apparent from the street view. In the case of this custom home, the parapet had the added benefit of only revealing the solar panel system to a bird’s eye view. This way, we were able to minimize the visual interruption of the flat appearance.

    Nova Solar used some unique attachment mechanisms for the flat roof. In this project, they used a ballasted system – panels attached to bases. The bases have a cinder block system that weighs down the panels and keeps them from moving around. This rests atop the roof instead of being attached, and the weight of blocks keeps the system secured. The base has a high, north side of panel with 5-10º of tilt, which creates better energy production throughout the year by capturing more electricity per panel than just lying flat.

    Staying True to Vacation Style Living™

    This custom home is situated on a typical, tight Arlington lot, but we were still able to fit a spacious house along with a pool, outdoor kitchen, and trampoline area in the backyard. The main floor consists of an in-law/guest suite, the kitchen, great room, dining room, and bi-fold sliding doors and sliding doors that allow the main floor to be completely open and seamlessly transition to the outdoors. The floor to ceiling Windows in the owner’s suite is another signature design choice for AV. With Smart home features and all-around home speakers as well as many other small details, the home is deceptively simple and incredibly easy to use and maintain. Solar power fits right in because the system lasts for decades, and it requires almost no maintenance, consistent with our standard choices of low-hassle, high-quality exterior building materials.

    The choice to opt for solar panels in this home really shows the clients’ goal to build this house for the future. This is their forever home, and it is an investment into the modern and sustainable lifestyle they want to live. To get started on your home that makes you feel like you are on vacation year-round, contact us today.

    The Sun Queen and the Skeptic: Building the World’s First Solar Houses

    In the mid-20th century, colleagues-turned-rivals Maria Telkes and Hoyt Hottel engineered new ways of heating American homes.

    Before the bad blood and competition, before he agitated for her dismissal and her fame eclipsed his, Hoyt Hottel and Maria Telkes had been colleagues pursuing a common goal: to find new ways to use the energy radiated by the sun.

    Working together at MIT in the 1940s, they wrestled with basic questions solar engineers continue to confront. How can sunlight be efficiently converted into other forms of energy? How can the resulting heat or electricity be stored and put to use? Can solar technologies produce energy cheaply enough to be useful in everyday life and supplant the world’s finite supplies of polluting fossil fuels?

    Many Americans were particularly enthralled by the idea of using the sun to warm their homes. The prospect of free heating proved irresistible to a generation that had learned hard lessons about scarcity and thrift as they endured the Great Depression, wartime fuel rationing, and oil panics. A few enterprising architects had already garnered attention for building so-called passive solar houses, which used walls of south-facing Windows to maximize the homes’ warmth in winter.

    “No idea of the last 30 years has so fired the imagination of the American public as the one of letting the old sol reduce the winter fuel bill,” declared a 1942 article in House Beautiful.

    As interest grew at academic institutions and in private industry, scientists began designing materials and systems to better capture solar energy. Among the many animated by the idea of exploiting the sun’s seemingly endless bounty was Godfrey Lowell Cabot, an industrialist from an old Boston Brahmin family. Cabot had grown very wealthy manufacturing the carbon black used to strengthen and extend the life of car tires. In his later years he became obsessed with energy and solar energy in particular, funding research at both Harvard University and MIT.

    “Godfrey Lowell Cabot of Boston speaks to almost anybody, but his thoughts are definitely heavenward,” Time reported in 1938, soon after Cabot gave MIT a sizable donation. “He is 77, and in his old age he broods much about the vast stores of energy in sunlight which man does not utilize.”

    In 1939 MIT hired Telkes, a Hungarian immigrant and one of the very few women in engineering, to join its nascent solar program. Like Cabot she was a fervent believer in solar energy’s potential to replace potentially limited fossil fuels, such as coal and gas. Solar energy, she once wrote, “is the greatest untapped energy resource of the world and its utilization should be one of our most important and fruitful projects.” She was later dubbed the Sun Queen for her many groundbreaking solar inventions.

    Hottel, a chemical engineering professor and the leader of MIT’s solar project, was far more skeptical of the technology’s prospects. than once he criticized its proponents for what he considered fuzzy-headed optimism. He clashed with Cabot and Telkes, eventually driving her from the program. Yet, paradoxically, he too was a foundational figure in the field. He published seminal research and built some of the world’s first-ever “active” solar houses.

    The story of these scientists, their collaborations, and their clashes captures the history of a simple idea that proved difficult to realize in full but had the potential to fundamentally change the way we live.

    A Home to Live In

    Hottel came to solar technology almost by accident. A prodigy from Indiana, he graduated from college at 19 and became an assistant professor at MIT at 25. He mostly studied fire and industrial furnaces but was asked to help launch the solar project. He was the only participant who came up with a concrete proposal and so, as he later recalled, was made “the rather too-young chairman” of MIT’s solar energy committee.

    Hottel spent some of Cabot’s riches studying flat-plate collectors, simple glass-covered devices often used in California and Florida to produce hot water for homes. The first product of that research was an experimental structure erected on the MIT campus in 1939. Later dubbed MIT I, Hottel’s first solar house featured a rooftop collector where sunlight heated the water, which was then stored in a huge underground tank. Fans blew air over the hot tank and up into the building, keeping it warm through two Boston winters.

    A 1942 paper Hottel cowrote on the project became a classic in the field of solar heating and a guide for use of flat-plate collectors, influencing engineers and do-it-yourself homebuilders for decades to come. Not that anyone would want to exactly replicate MIT I; as Hottel was careful to explain, it was a scientific experiment and not a test model. Installing a 17,000-gallon underground tank would not be economically feasible for a real house.

    Yet real sun-heated houses were what the public increasingly wanted. Now that Hottel understood how to collect solar energy, he recognized that MIT needed to develop a more practical storage solution, perhaps a smaller tank that kept just a day’s supply of heated water. For Telkes this problem created her first opportunity to work on solar housing.

    Telkes had come to the field in a roundabout way, having first dabbled in biological and metallurgical research related to energy. After immigrating to the United States in 1924, she worked as a biophysicist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where she helped surgeon George Washington Crile create a photoelectric device that recorded brain waves. In Crile’s darkened lab “brain tissues were made to glow by their own inner light, giving off a strange radiance that shown like a mystic halo,” the Chicago Daily Tribune reported in 1934.

    Telkes next worked at Westinghouse developing metal alloys for thermocouples that would turn heat into electricity. When she heard about MIT’s new solar-energy program, she wrote the university to ask for a job and was hired. With the outbreak of World War II she was assigned to work with Hottel designing a portable solar desalinator, a balloon-like device that aviators downed at sea could use to make drinkable water.

    She also continued tinkering with thermocouples. A 1942 profile of Telkes in the Christian Science Monitor found her stirring solutions over a flame in an MIT lab and demonstrating a visionary assertiveness. “It is the things supposed to be impossible that interest me. I like to do things they say cannot be done,” she told the newspaper.

    By the end of the war she added another FOCUS to her research, becoming deeply engaged in the challenge of designing practical solar-heating systems. “Solar heat storage,” she later wrote in Science, is “the critical problem.”

    Water, which could only store so much heat per gallon, required large, expensive tanks, Telkes reasoned. Solid materials such as rock were even less efficient. promising were phase-change materials that absorb or release heat when they change from solid to liquid. She became fascinated with one such substance called Glauber’s salt, or sodium sulfate, which is widely used in the chemical industry.

    For MIT’s next solar experiment Hottel initially wanted to build a real house with occupants. Telkes proposed putting containers of Glauber’s salt behind a glass wall, where they would absorb large amounts of heat during the day and release it as the building cooled.

    “The idea looks very good,” Hottel wrote in response to her proposal. “Dr. Telkes’ contribution may make a big difference in the outcome of our project.”

    Clashing Worldviews

    Hottel and Telkes both aspired to build a livable solar house, but they approached the idea from very different perspectives.

    While Hottel would go on to lead MIT’s solar team for more than two decades, solar housing was just one of many different projects he worked on. Like many academic scientists, he accepted a variety of research tasks as they were offered by corporate or government sponsors. He studied ramjet engines and built a device to remove carbon monoxide from auto exhaust; during World War II he worked on tank-mounted flamethrowers and napalm bombs. He once developed a simulated skin to gauge the effect of atomic blasts on the body.

    Hottel approached solar-energy collection as just another engineering and economic problem rather than as a societal imperative. He frequently expressed skepticism about its prospects, given the world’s ample supply of relatively cheap fossil fuels and the emergence of nuclear power, and he mocked those who cited the seemingly vast amount of energy available in sunlight.

    “Figures such as these are almost irrelevant to the problem of practical utilization of solar energy,” he said in a 1940 lecture. “They have attracted uncounted crank inventors who have approached the problem with little more mental equipment than a rosy optimism.” In reality the amount of useful sun energy is limited by the weather and inefficiencies in energy collection, he explained.

    Why Hottel continued to pursue solar experiments for years despite his belief in their ultimate futility is not entirely clear. He was surely driven in part by his restless scientific curiosity and industrious personality, as well as ambitions to break new ground, as he did with MIT I. Heading a well-endowed research group, especially at such a young age, also carried a measure of prestige and may have helped cement his position at MIT.

    Cabot’s solar grant funded Hottel’s and his graduate students’ research and helped them produce many scientific papers, a key measure of success. Academics are always on the hunt for funding; it would have made little sense for him to give up control of a well-resourced, long-lasting research opportunity, especially one that let him craft his own experiments rather than follow the dictates of corporate sponsors. Once launched, the solar fund just kept going, even if Hottel’s interest waned at times and MIT ultimately judged the program underproductive.

    Hottel sometimes sneered at breathless articles on solar houses, but he also may have enjoyed the greater public attention the projects attracted compared with his other work. Newspaper and magazine interviews gave him venues to demonstrate his hard-nosed fidelity to scientific and economic rigor.

    “He clearly took pride in his role as a skeptic, and believed he was making a contribution by broadcasting caution,” writes architectural historian Anthony Denzer.

    Telkes, meanwhile, squarely saw the exploitation of solar energy as a benefit to mankind, allying herself with Cabot and with such prominent advocates as scientists Farrington Daniels and Eugene Ayres. Unlike Hottel, Telkes would spend the rest of her career studying, proposing, or building solar-energy projects, and she vigorously defended their prospects against skeptics like him.

    “Conservative engineers treat this subject with near derision,” she wrote in a 1951 paper. She likened them to people who had preferred horses to early automobiles, focusing too much on tangible, short-term results over the likely long-term benefits. Yes, the United States had access to plenty of fuel, but what about places lacking in coal or oil? What about the “soot, fire hazards, and mining accidents” caused by the production and use of conventional fuels?

    Solar energy is “the cleanest and healthiest fuel,” she wrote. While the field still faced many challenges, “The total research and development expenditures made thus far in solar energy utilization are infinitesimal when compared with the expenditures made in the development of other natural resources. Sunlight will be used as source of energy sooner or later anyway. Why wait?”

    It was perhaps inevitable that Hottel’s and Telkes’s ideological differences would eventually make them adversaries. The seeds of the conflict, however, may have been planted early on, during Telkes’s first project for the team.

    Telkes had completed a prototype of her desalination device for aviators in 1942 and won notice from government officials and private industry. But Hottel changed manufacturers three times to get the best deal and minimize costs, delaying delivery of the desalinators to the U.S. military until just after the end of the war. Telkes and Cabot expressed frustration that Hottel’s maneuvers had rendered the project much less useful than it might have been.

    Brilliant Disasters

    If Hottel’s mishandling of the desalinator set the two engineers at odds, it was Telkes’s obsession with Glauber’s salt that would trigger a permanent rupture. Though initially promising, the substance turned out to be troublesome. During testing for the team’s second solar house in 1946, the material stratified into its different component substances and corroded the containers until they leaked.

    Hottel and others blamed Telkes for “imprecise assessment” of the heat storage process, historian Daniel Barber writes. Telkes blamed Hottel for poorly supervising the graduate students who ran the experiment, saying they had failed to keep the building at a steady temperature as required. Her colleagues also clashed with Telkes on a personal level, in part because of her assertive personality but also, perhaps, because of a bias against the sole woman on the team.

    She is “a person of strong opinions which she expresses forcibly,” MIT dean George Harrison wrote in a report on the solar fund several years later. Even people outside the program “found it impossible to agree with her for any length of time.”

    MIT President Karl Compton took Telkes’s side in the squabble over the Glauber’s salt testing. “She does not like to see her ideas brushed aside based solely on this evidence,” he wrote to Hottel. He urged the solar committee to skip further testing and have an architect design a livable house with phase-change technology. “We should make a bold approach for a further big step forward in the matter of the solar heated house, rather than putter around with further measurements.”

    But despite support from Compton and from Cabot, who had become friendly with Telkes, Hottel not only rejected the idea of using Glauber’s salt but dismissed Telkes from the solar energy fund entirely. Telkes was reassigned to MIT’s metallurgy department, where she resumed her research on thermocouples.

    Instead of building a real house Hottel and the others put up another experimental shed, MIT II. It was made up of several adjoining cubicles, each with a different arrangement of glass Windows, walls of water-filled containers, and other elements.

    The water walls actually did a decent job of storing heat. (Decades later the idea would be taken up again by solar-home builders.) But Hottel believed the building’s leaky Windows had let out too much heat, basically ruining the project, and he apparently disowned it, according to Denzer. Cabot was again annoyed and suggested Hottel should be removed as chair of the solar energy fund in favor of someone who would go ahead and build a real house—someone like Maria Telkes.

    “I would like to see this solar energy research entrusted to someone who would give more attention to it,” he groused.

    Hottel recognized the threat. If an occupied house was the price of remaining in charge of the fund, he was ready to provide one. He and a collaborator, architecture professor Lawrence Anderson, moved quickly this time. They had an architecture student design a plan to convert MIT II into MIT III, a habitable house that used Hottel’s rooftop collector method.

    With a peaked roof, a backyard, and a water tank hidden in the attic, the structure looked like a typical house. It immediately drew national attention. In 1949 the Saturday Evening Post profiled the occupants—graduate student Harry Reid; his wife, June; and their two-year-old son, Toby—“who were elated with the house and eminently satisfied with its heating system,” according to Barber.

    “None of us has had a cold since we moved in, and Toby hasn’t even had the sniffles,” June was quoted as saying.

    At peak performance MIT III derived 82% of its heat from the sun and the rest from auxiliary heaters. Various inefficiencies kept it from achieving the builders’ goal of 90% solar heating, but the project confirmed the accuracy of Hottel’s earlier work on flat-plate collectors and boosted his public profile.

    “Hottel executed a brilliant subterfuge, using the architecture department and the Reid family to create an attractive Trojan horse which would accommodate his experiment and distract from controversies about his leadership,” Denzer writes in The Solar House, a history of passive and active solar homes.

    Telkes, though exiled from the solar energy fund, continued to look for opportunities to prove the utility of Glauber’s salt. She befriended a well-known modernist architect, Eleanor Raymond, who eventually put her in touch with Amelia Peabody, another wealthy Boston Brahmin. With encouragement from close friends Godfrey Cabot and Karl Compton, Peabody agreed to commission Telkes and Raymond to build a solar house on her estate in Dover, Massachusetts.

    Shortly after the debut of MIT III, the three women completed their Dover Sun House. Described in the press as looking like “an overgrown chicken coop,” it was dominated by a giant attic with a south-facing wall composed entirely of tall, glass-plated collectors. For heat storage warmed air was blown into spaces containing 3,500 gallons of Glauber’s salt housed in metal drums.

    The project appeared a huge success. Cousins of Telkes’s lived comfortably in the building for two winters, and front-page newspaper articles celebrated the house for dispensing entirely with conventional heating fuels. “A New House in Dover, Mass., Has Been Comfortably Warm All Winter Without a Furnace,” read a 1949 headline in Life. A cover story in Popular Science said the house might represent a more important scientific development than the atom bomb. Andrew Nemethy, who grew up in the house, later recalled that it drew 3,000 visitors—“society matrons, club members, reporters, and curious civilians”—until tours were suspended.

    “No other solar house received as much publicity as the Dover Sun House,” Denzer notes.

    The glowing reports missed a few important details, however. While the house did not use coal or oil for heating, the fans needed to circulate air ran up the electric bill. And as it had during the MIT tests, the Glauber’s salt stratified into liquid and solid layers, and the metal containers corroded and leaked. By the third winter Nemethy’s family was freezing.

    “After week-long strings of cloudy days, indoor temperatures sank to panic levels. My mother complained, and we soon had electric heaters in all the rooms,” he recalled. The solar heating system was removed, and an oil furnace was later installed in the attic.

    Prejudice and Persistence

    After MIT III the solar energy fund went dormant. In 1953 dean Harrison undertook a review to understand why it was not more productive. His report briefly mentioned Hottel’s spotty leadership but largely took the professor’s side, laying much of the blame on meddling by Cabot under the influence of Telkes.

    The review heavily reflected Hottel’s perspective, according to historian Sara Shreve. Hottel was hostile toward Telkes from early on because of her tenacious commitment to the idea of solar housing as well as her eagerness to engage with the public and the press. The report even went as far as disparaging Telkes’s intellect and character.

    “She has a wide circle of influential acquaintances, who are impressed with her enthusiasm for solar heating and her apparent intelligence,” Harrison wrote. She supported outside experiments (namely, the Dover Sun House) that “proved to be either grossly over-engineered or to be failures.” This is the report that described Telkes as having strong opinions that she expressed “forcibly” and that stated several people had found it “impossible to agree with her.”

    “She has for some time been at outs with the Committee, and especially with Professor Hottel,” Harrison wrote.

    For Shreve these criticisms reveal an underlying sexism. The “assertiveness” that a woman would need to earn a doctorate in engineering in Hungary in the 1920s, emigrate to the United States, and get a job at MIT “were at odds with prevailing societal expectations about female behavior,” she writes, especially in the post–World War II return to traditional gender roles.

    Barber notes that the dean cites Telkes’s “rather radical opinions” and supposed “ultra-radical tendencies.” These Комментарии и мнения владельцев describe her solar advocacy but may also betray Harrison’s suspicions of a Hungarian woman amid the McCarthyist anti-Communism of the early 1950s.

    After the review MIT fired Telkes. Hottel and Anderson made one more big solar-housing push, building a home in Lexington, Massachusetts, that was meant to be sold on the open market. The main distinguishing feature of MIT IV was a large wall of solar collectors that sloped down from the top of the roof to a high berm behind the house.

    The house made the cover of Popular Mechanics, but it was burdened by complex systems: multiple water tanks, a forced-air system, and automated controls designed to turn on the solar collection only when it offset the cost of pumping the water. MIT staff struggled to keep up with repairs and maintenance, and nobody would buy the home. Denzer calls the structure “a public relations success, a noteworthy aesthetic effort, an inefficient machine, and an economic tragedy.” After four years the solar system was ripped out.

    Hottel quit trying to build solar housing. While a number of scientists, architects, and do-it-yourselfers built innovative and successful solar homes in the ensuing decades—using a wide variety of both active and passive designs—Hottel remained a skeptic until the end of his life. In a 1995 interview he said he favored continued solar research and believed photovoltaic panels would eventually prove valuable, but he still thought people were far too optimistic about solar energy.

    “We’re kidding the public about the sun. It’s not worth as much as claimed,” he said in a 1985 oral history interview with the Chemical Heritage Foundation (now the Science History Institute). “The cost of doing something using the sun has always been a little higher than if you do it some other way.” Nonetheless, when he died in 1998, the New York Times described him as “a leader in the development of alternative fuels.”

    Telkes, meanwhile, became a star in the lively but increasingly irrelevant world of solar-heating research, which gradually faded in prominence as nuclear power and cheap Middle Eastern petroleum conquered the energy industry. She presented at conferences and proposed a version of the Dover Sun House for Manhattan, which won her a job at New York University.

    She kept busy, consulting on the construction of several homes around Princeton, New Jersey, and helping plan residential developments in upstate New York and the Dallas suburbs. (Neither of the developments was built.) In the late 1950s she designed an ambitious demonstration project, the Princeton Sun House, using Glauber’s salt, but it was plagued with the usual corroding containers and other problems and never worked very well. Another project, a stand-alone heat generator called the Solar Wall, didn’t go anywhere.

    After briefly teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and working in industry, she found a home at the University of Delaware, where she expanded her research to include a new breed of solar technology—electricity-generating photovoltaic cells. In 1971 she and her colleagues built Solar One, the first house to generate both heat and electricity from the sun, helping kick off a nationwide solar boom.

    By the time photovoltaic solar panels entered the market, the active heating systems that Telkes, Hottel, and many others designed had largely faded away. They had become technological dead-ends. Just a few examples of these systems survive in homes custom-built by tinkerers and home-efficiency enthusiasts.

    In that respect Hottel was right: it was always going to be a little cheaper (not to mention easier) to use some other fuel to create heat. Solar methods did not get good enough fast enough to meet the demands of the massive housing boom of the 1950s and 1960s, which erected millions of tract homes heated by gas radiators and cooled by electric air conditioners. The federal government and the energy industry spent billions promoting traditional fuels, sweeping solar heating aside.

    But in another way Hottel was wrong to foreclose the possibilities of solar heating, and Telkes deserves the praise she received for her determined prescience and eagerness to innovate.

    Mid-century solar houses were less expensive to heat than conventional homes, some by a large margin. They also had environmental benefits whose significance was not fully appreciated until half a century later, when the threat posed by greenhouse gases became widely known. With well-sealed Windows and better insulation, homes can be made even more efficient, as builders of today’s highly insulated “passive houses” have shown. Telkes was on the right track, but the technological and social transformations she sought were just out of reach.

    Meir Rindeis a reporter at WHYY in Philadelphia.

    New Construction

    Modern technology makes it cost-effective and sensible to build a 100% solar-powered home, with no utility bills and minimal carbon footprint. At ReVision Energy, we’ve helped thousands of homeowners achieve their dream of living in a solar-powered home through new construction, whether we work directly with the homeowner, or with their builder or architect.

    This guide is designed for those in the process of building a new home, though many of the concepts apply to existing homes as well. It will cover:

    • The many benefits of going solar in New England
    • Key considerations to build your new home better (it’s not just about the solar!)
    • How solar can power, heat, and cool your new home
    • Solar batteries and driving on sunshine (aka EV charging)
    • An interactive worksheet to get you dreaming and scheming about your solar powered home

    Solar Makes Sense in New England

    Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire offer key economic and geographic advantages that make solar a viable option for your new construction.

    While most people know that powering your home with solar is better for the environment, many don’t know that solar is a powerful economic benefit too:

    • New England’s solar resource is abundant. Each year, we receive the same amount of usable solar energy as Houston, Texas. Our bright, chilly spring and fall and long summers help make up for the dark days of winter.​​​​​​
    • The cost of solar panels has declined sharply in the last decade. We’ve seen a steadying decline in costs, driven largely by photovoltaic (PV) module efficiencies (now 19.5%, up from 19.2% in 2019) and hardware and inverter costs. Since 2010, there has been a 64% reduction in the cost of residential PV systems, respectively.
    • Solar electricity can be used to heat and cool your home. While it’s great to save money on your electric bill, solar really becomes a valuable investment when used to power heating and cooling equipment, such as modern cold climate heat pumps and heat pump water heaters. By building a tight, well-insulated home. you reduce the need to build an expensive monstrosity of a heating system, freeing up funds to pay for the heat pump and solar combo (more on that shortly).
    • Solar panels are incredibly reliable. Solar panels come warrantied for 25 years and are expected to have a service life of 40 years. With no moving parts, a solar panel system is one of the most reliable, long-lived mechanical systems you can invest in.

    Before Solar, Build it Better

    Building a well-insulated and efficiently ventilated house will set you up for greater success when powering your home with solar.

    The most important advice we have doesn’t even pertain to solar…it’s about the house itself. Build it better!

    While building codes have gotten tougher around energy efficiency, we still think that a code-built home is far below the minimum insulation/air-tightness that any reasonable person would want. It really doesn’t cost that much more money to build a tighter, better-insulated home, and the effort to do so will result in huge savings down the road, in terms of energy bills you don’t need to pay and carbon pollution you’ll keep out of the atmosphere.

    There are lots of nuances to this, but we’re generally fans of building at least to a “Pretty Good House” standard. Since this term was thought up, there have been numerous resources and guide published about how to build a Pretty Good House. We recommend you check those out!

    Pretty Good House standards:

    • Well-insulated (R20) basement or slab
    • R30-40 wall system, such as 2×6 walls with dense pack cellulose for thermal resistance and 2 inch of rigid foam to eliminate thermal bridging (even better to do a double-stud wall system!)
    • R60 attic insulation
    • Better than average air sealing (easier said than done, as many trades on a jobsite need to have air sealing literacy for this to be successful. For example, choices in the framing process matter in terms of air sealing, and electricians/plumbers can screw up a really good air sealing job!)
    • High-end double-hung Windows, or triple-glazed Windows
    • Mechanical ventilation (without this it’ll be hard to breathe in your tight new house. more on this below!)

    For context, a home built to this standard may command a 26% cost premium over a barely-meets-code build home, but will use roughly ½ as much energy. It’s worth remembering: A code-built house is literally the worst house you are legally allowed to build in your region… A far cry from the best! (Thanks to Emily Mottram for this particular line)

    Ventilation is Crucial

    New construction requires a mechanical ventilation strategy. The more air-tight and insulated a home is, the less energy needed to heat and cool it. Naturally, such a house will also “breathe” less; to be a healthy environment for people and pets, every house needs to be able to exchange stale air for fresh outdoor air.

    Building codes in most states mandate that one third of the stale air inside a home should be replaced with fresh air from the outdoors every hour, also known as the baseline Air Exchange Rate (ACH) of.3 ACH per hour.

    Older, draftier homes do this by leaking air from walls, doors, Windows, attics, and basements. However, as you might imagine, they lose an awful lot of heat in the process. The solution is to “build tight and ventilate right.” A Balanced Mechanical Ventilation system ensures that the right amount of potentially toxic indoor air is replaced with precisely the same amount of fresh outdoor air each hour. Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) and Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) systems improve on this concept by extracting heat from the outgoing stale air, keeping it inside the house. Thus, the needed air changes can occur with minimal loss of BTUs!

    There are several configurations and brands of ventilation systems, which have varying levels of efficiency. The least efficient will only preserve around 50% of the heat from the exhaust air (and often even less if improperly installed). At ReVision, we only work with the best products in every technology, and exclusively install Zehnder Energy Recovery Systems.

    Zehnder, based in Italy, is a leading manufacturer of ventilation equipment in Europe, where standards for energy efficiency have been higher than in the US for some time. The ComfoQ ERVs from Zehnder offer up to 90% efficient heat recovery – significantly more than most domestic ventilation systems.

    Our team would be happy to guide you as you consider ventilation systems for your new construction.

    Built it in the Right Direction

    The location, orientation, and design of your roof is a key factor in building your solar powered home. if you’re planning on rooftop solar, of course.

    The roof matters!! Some decisions around how you design and orient your home can have big impacts on solar. Some key considerations:

    • Everyone knows that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west… But did you know it tracks along the southern skyline as it does so? This is why solar panels (in the Northern Hemisphere) get oriented to the south. The sun is relatively higher in the skyline during the summer, and relatively lower in the wintertime, as seen below.
    • “True” south in New England is 195 degrees on the compass (slightly west of magnetic south). An ideal solar roof will be designed to face this true south.
    • NO SHADE – Shade trees (or other obstructions) have a serious negative effect on solar production.
    • A perfect solar array will be on a pitched roof (6/12 to 12/12) facing /- 15 degrees of true south.That said, solar panels will produce up to 90% of their rated output even at more east and west orientations, so if your future home’s site makes a southerly orientation impossible, it doesn’t mean solar won’t be a great investment.
    • Simple roof layouts (minimum dormers, plumbing vents, chimneys, etc) are much better for solar. Put plumbing vents and chimneys on the north side of the roof, if possible.
    • If you absolutely can’t design your roof in such a way that it is compatible with solar, you can install solar elsewhere! We have ground-mounted solar, dual-axis solar trackers, and solar canopy options available.

    Powering your New Home with Solar

    Finally, the good part! There are different ways to go solar (off-grid, grid-tied, etc.) but for this guide, we’re going to assume you’re going with a grid-tied solar options. Here’s why:

    • 99% of solar installations in the US are grid-tied, meaning they still have a physical connection to the public utility grid, but can also produce their own solar power.
    • Under this arrangement, you treat the utility like a gigantic battery – anytime the sun is out, your home produces and consumes its own solar electricity, but any excess you can send out to the grid. At night or during crummy weather, you use power from the electric grid like normal.
    • Utilities are required by law to give you credits for any solar power you send out to the grid, under an arrangement called ‘net metering.’ In most places, you get a 1:1 credit, or 1 unit of exported solar = 1 unit of utility credit you can use later.
    • The best of both worlds, is have a grid-tied solar array (which allows your solar to produce as much power as it possibly can with no limits) with battery backup (so that if the grid goes down you have source of backup power). ReVision offers modern battery backup solutions, such as the Tesla Powerwall.

    In a grid-tied solar electric system, with or without battery backup, the goal is generally to achieve net-zero, meaning, at the end of the year your home will have produced as much electricity as it has consumed. This is not always possible (especially if you’re heating with solar and also running an electric car) but it’s a worthy goal!

    “Plug Load” Electricity Estimate

    Before we get into heating and cooling, we start with getting an estimate for ‘plug loads’ — the amount of power you need for your household appliances, electronics, well pump, etc.

    beautiful, solar, powered, houses, world

    This is tricky! No two families are alike, and two families living in the same home can have VERY different electricity bills depending on occupant behavior. Once you start to work with a ReVision Solar Design Specialist, we’ll do a more thorough analysis, and ideally get a professional energy designer in the mix to build a more complex model. Some useful terminology for you to know:

    • Electricity is measured in units called kilowatts (1,000 watts). This represents instantaneous power – much like miles per hour measure the speed of a vehicle, but not its travel over time.
    • Electricity is billed in units called kilowatt-hours. This is the amount of total energy as an expression of kilowatts and time. This is like measuring how many miles a car traveled, and averaging the miles-per-hour over that time period.
    • Solar panel arrays are usually sold in kilowatts (the ‘nameplate’ rating of the panels in full sun) but its far more important to understand how much energy they will produce over time – or their kilowatt-hour (kWh) potential.
    • Each 1kw of solar panels (roughly 3) = 1,200 kWh a year of solar production on a decent solar site in our region.

    Heating Cooling your Home with Solar

    Modern heat pumps are fundamentally more efficient than older technologies like baseboard heating and air conditioning and a great option for new construction.

    Do you dread the idea of putting a noisy, fuel-sucking heater or boiler into your new home? Well, good news! Your solar-powered home of the future needs no oil or gas at all. Modern heat pumps, which can be powered by solar, are the best option for you newly constructed homes (old homes too, for that matter).

    Cold-climate heat pumps work by using a refrigeration process similar to the way your home’s refrigerator works. Warmth is extracted from the ambient outside air (down to temperatures around.15F) and transferred into your home. Since the heat pump is moving, not creating, heat, it is highly efficient. Powered by solar, a heat pump can heat your home for the equivalent of around 1/gallon for oil!

    Heat pumps also replace the need for air conditioning. In warmer months, heat pumps extract hot air and humidity from your home, for less than what a typical air conditioning unit costs to generate cool air.

    While it’s possible to keep drafty old homes warm with heat pumps, they are far more effective when used in a tight, well-insulated house, hence our recommendation that you build one. If you build a good quality house, then you can heat primarily with heat pumps, and install a small backup system (say a pellet stove or electric baseboard) to supplement the heat pumps during periods of extreme cold weather.

    Since heat pumps are powered by electricity, you can use solar power you bank in the summertime as your fuel source in the winter.

    If you’re planning on building a new home and want to harness the power of the sun to create an energy efficient, climate friendly household, get in touch with ReVision! Use the Get Started button below to contact our Solar Advisor team.


    Need support for your existing system? Contact our Service Team: Reach us at (207) 747-0076 or open a Support Ticket.

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