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Solar Decathlon 2011

Consumer Workshop Summaries

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 consumer workshop presentations are provided below.

Benefits of Electric Vehicles: A National Perspective

This workshop examined the electric vehicle industry and explored why these vehicles are beneficial to the nation. Presenters discussed the electric vehicles available, how the industry is promoting them, and incentives for investing in a vehicle of your own.

Better Buildings: Lessons Learned

This workshop explored how to live in a better building. The presenter walked through common definitions and the typical components of a home energy evaluation and energy-efficiency upgrades. Using lessons learned from the Department of Energy Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, this workshop equipped audience members with resources, knowledge, and the confidence to start the process of living in a better home.

Building Efficient, Affordable Homes: DC Habitat for Humanity Model

This workshop by the District of Columbia Habitat for Humanity led the audience through the business model that provides affordable home ownership opportunities in the District. The workshop also educated members of the audience on how current and future green building practices are making Habitat homes even more affordable by being energy- and resource-efficient.

Creating an Energy-Efficient Home: What To Expect and Ask When Making Improvements

This workshop educated the audience on how a house functions as a system and the basic building science of energy efficiency. The presenter provided useful information regarding what an energy auditor does and why you might want to obtain an energy audit on your home. The workshop also explored typical energy-efficiency improvements and what to expect and ask when hiring a contractor.

Developing Education for Greater Energy Efficiency

Education is key in increasing awareness of energy-saving opportunities and in training the energy leaders of tomorrow. This workshop hared international examples of educational programs and was based on the experiences of several programs targeting specific audiences from schoolchildren to professionals.

Efficient Home Projects for All Budgets: How To Get Started

This workshop illustrated home projects that help save energy and money on utility bills. Improving a home's energy efficiency doesn't have to be done all at once. Small projects can make a big difference. In this workshop, the presenter outlined behavior changes that are no-cost but can save energy as well as projects that can be completed for less than $50, less than $150, less than $500, less than $1,000, and less than $1,500.

Electric Vehicles: Managing the Impacts of Electric Vehicle Charging

With the growth of plug-in vehicles comes potential distribution system impacts as a result of the increasing penetration of charging equipment in residential and commercial applications. Utilities will need to better understand the potential for plug-in vehicle penetration within their service territories and know where the vehicles will be deployed and how to manage the load. This presentation provided detailed information on the planning, implementation, and results related to these efforts as well as lessons learned and potential benefits.

Energy Efficiency 101: Creating a Healthier Home

Learn about the importance of indoor air quality and health and safety in the home. This presentation explored how health and safety is related to energy efficiency using dynamic examples and illustrations. The workshop also educated consumers about what to look for and what to avoid.

Energy Efficiency 101: Live in This, Not That

Learn to make your home healthy. See this presentation to learn the ingredients of a healthy home and how to improve your home's energy performance. This workshop provided valuable tips using dynamic examples and illustrations.

Energy Efficiency 101: An Overview of the Home Energy Score

This workshop covered a program from the Department of Energy. The Home Energy Score is intended to strengthen the home energy retrofit market and provide affordable and credible means for homeowners to understand their home's energy performance, how their home compares with others in their area, and how to take action to improve its efficiency. Learn about the program and how it will build on and complement existing energy-efficiency policies.

Energy Efficiency 101: Practical Steps to a Better-Performing Home

This workshop provided tips and practical steps for improving your home's energy performance and introduced publicly available tools to benchmark your home's performance. The session answered commonly asked questions related to home energy efficiency and introduced free online resources available through the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Energy Efficiency for Dummies

This workshop illustrated low-cost, low-technology energy-saving tips for everyday life and for everyone. It covered 25 energy-efficient measures that can be immediately implemented in a typical household for very little, if not zero, added cost. This workshop provided a variety of creative ideas for saving energy with easy behavior changes in day-to-day living.

Energy Efficiency for the Home: Take Control

This workshop discussed useful tools—including smart meters, Web tools, and direct load control programs—available to help you better manage your energy use. The workshop also explained how to take advantage of energy efficiency and renewable energy rebate and program opportunities.

Energy Efficiency in the D.C. Area (Arlington County, Loudoun County, Montgomery County, District of Columbia)

This workshop introduced energy efficiency and renewable energy programs available through local governments in the Washington, D.C., area. Panelists educated homeowners on resources available, shared example projects, and provided background on program goals.

The Future of Smart Home Systems and Services

The technologies that connect home systems have changed drastically and continue to improve. This workshop examined the history of connected home systems and the currently available technology and capabilities to connect and control your home systems using a variety of devices and interfaces such as Web dashboards and smart phones.

Going Solar 101: A Case Study

This workshop wais designed to give a broad understanding of the process of purchasing and installing a solar electric system and answer common questions on the minds of homeowners. The workshop followed the experiences of an average homeowner living in the District of Columbia who wanted to "go solar."

A Home in the Cloud: Modern Homes Are Becoming Energy Ecosystems

Using simple, cost-effective technologies, it is now possible to control your home thermostat and lights from the beach or see the real-time energy use of your vacation home. This workshop explored the next generation in home lighting efficiency by looking at how those technologies are managed and controlled and how consumers and designers alike can incorporate energy-efficient lighting with lighting controls based on a "cloud" network to provide additional comfort, security, and energy savings to homeowners without huge upfront costs.

How Solar Works: Solar Heating and Cooling for Your Home

This presentation provided easy-to-understand information about how solar heating and cooling technologies work, what needs to be considered before installing a system, how to contact an installer, what paperwork and research might be involved, and what benefits to expect.

How Solid State Lighting Technology Gives Us the Ability To Control Light

This workshop illustrated how solid state lighting technology gives us the ability to control light—its intensity, duration, and spectrum—allowing us to see light in ways never before available from nature or lightbulbs. This workshop covered how LED technology is rapidly changing the way we will perceive light in the near future as well as the beneficial applications—such as biotechnology, biofuels, agriculture, daily life, and health and medicine—that it can be used for.

How To Safely Design Your Solar Installation

This workshop covered engineering topics and safety considerations that designers encounter when planning residential and commercial solar projects. Speakers covered how photovoltaic panels work, design guidelines, footprint versus output, AC-DC conversion, product selection, level-setting expectations, practical calculations, challenges, and lessons learned.

Lessons From the Architects of Tomorrow: A Conversation With Students of the Solar Decathlon

After spending months and years hammering out houses for the Solar Decathlon, the students who participate in the competition have accumulated in-depth knowledge about how to make structures more energy- and water-efficient—tips that can be applied to any home. The different teams, situated in different climates, employ a diverse array of tactics to achieve these goals. This workshop provided the opportunity for insightful discussion with the students of the Solar Decathlon.

Life After Solar Decathlon: The Hunt for a Career in Sustainable Building

Solar Decathlon participants gain vast knowledge in sustainable building, renewable energy, project management, and architecture, but what do they do next with their education and their passion? Follow the journey of one solar decathlete from competition to post-college and learn how he employed the skills gained from the Solar Decathlon experience.

Overcoming Technical Challenges of Solar Interconnection With the Electric Grid

This workshop explored the rapid increase in solar generation interconnection with the electric grid. As penetration increases on the distribution system, so do technical and operational challenges. This workshop delved into advanced technologies (existing and in development) that can be used to mitigate these challenges and better support future solar generation interconnection.

Renewable Energy and Smart Grid: Workforce Opportunities and Issues in the Electric Utility Industry

This workshop explored Pepco's blueprint for the future and the benefits and challenges of investment in the smart grid. The workshop also presented career opportunities—including energy advisors, training specialists, engineers, and operations—available in the electric industry with the increase in smart grid technologies.

Renewable Energy for the Homeowner: How to Prepare for Renewable Energy Options

This session covered two options for meeting upcoming energy challenges: dramatic improvements in home energy efficiency and tapping into clean, affordable renewable energy resources to heat and cool homes, provide hot water and electricity, and even cook. These measures can result in huge savings and a level of energy independence. This workshop discussed energy conservation that can slash energy bills and prepare consumers for renewable energy options.

Seal and Insulate Demonstration

This interactive demonstration taught how to correctly seal and insulate an existing home and provided an understanding of why it is important. The workshop addressed when it is safe to perform do-it-yourself sealing and insulating activities and what will provide the biggest bang for the buck.

Solar 101: How To Select and Operate a Solar Electric System for Your Home

This workshop provided steps for selecting a solar electric system for your home and explained the basics of operating the system. The presenter covered the essential knowledge needed in a homeowner's journey to installing and owning a solar electric system.

Solar 101: Resale Values of Homes With Installed PV

Do photovoltaic energy systems increase home values? This workshop explored Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's research findings on the topic as well as the residential photovoltaic market, current market barriers, and future opportunities.

Solar 101: Uncovering Opportunities of Advanced Building Envelopes

This workshop delved into the technology behind windows, roofs, walls, and building-integrated photovoltaic cells and the opportunities for homeowners to incorporate the latest technologies in their homes. The presenter got to the bottom of common myths associated with these technologies and provided useful tips to improve a home's energy performance.

Solar Systems for Residential Installations

This workshop provided an overview of the solar industry, why you should choose solar for your home, how to get started, and the benefits it will provide. Find out how you can be part of one of the fastest-growing worldwide industries.

Using the Sun To Cool Your Home—Yes, You Read That Right!

This workshop discussed the latest in solar cooling, including the various technologies available and how they work; the applications for the systems; and what is in the works for the future. The presentation provided examples of residential and commercial projects and provided information about installing a solar cooling system.