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Photo of Solar Decathlon Director Richard King being interviewed by a videographer.

Cool Houses, Cool Energy, Cool Science

Saturday, October 5, 2013

By Solar Decathlon

“Cool” means hip, trendy. It means you like something. It’s sweet.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 houses are totally cool. They have a look of functional beauty. And once inside, they’re even more cool. Visitors marvel at the innovative features and see smart controls at work. Indeed, these houses are both beautiful and fun to live in.

The technology is cool, too. Teams are using solar photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight directly into electricity. No moving parts and no emissions. Way cool! Shades open and close automatically according to how strong the sun is. Phase-change materials heat or cool to complement passive design. Energy-saving LED lights use just a tiny bit of electricity.

Photo of a man speaking into a microphone in front of the Czech Technical University house. The rest of the team stands nearby.

It must be really cool to be in first place at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. Just ask the current competition leader, Czech Technical University. In this photo, members of the team introduce AIR House to reporters on media day, Oct. 2. (Credit: Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Cool also means lower temperatures. The weather in October starts getting a little cooler. And we’d all like to make the climate a little cooler. What everyone is going to see at the Solar Decathlon are some really cool houses that are producing clean energy as well as using it in cool ways.

What’s more, the students and faculty are learning something new as they design and build their competition houses. Starting with a clean sheet of paper, teams develop one-of-a-kind houses designed to win the competition—designed to be the best houses that have ever been designed.

Now that the houses are finished, they’re going to tell us something. And we are all going to learn from them. How cool is that?

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