The Solar Homestead is Appalachian State University's entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. Inspired by the pioneer spirit of the early settlers in the mountain region of North Carolina, we have designed a self-sustaining zero energy home.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Appalachian State University Places 2nd in Communications Contest!

Appalachian State University's The Solar Homestead has taken second place in the
Solar Decathlon 2011's Communications contest!! 

Dave Lee, Communication's Manager, giving a tour to a group of students at the Solar Decathlon 2011.

During the past two years, educating the public on the tremendous potential that solar power and renewable energy have, has been a key goal of The Solar Homestead team.  Knowing that we have reached out and raised awareness in such a way to be honored with this award is an incredible feeling.  Through many different disciplines, ranging from Anthropology, Sustainable Development, Physics, Broadcast Media and  Technical Photography, our Communications team has worked hard along with the help of the rest of the Homestead team to focus on this goal!

Members of the Solar Homestead's Communication Team after winning 2nd place!
This also would not have been possible without our dedicated community behind us. We spent weeks folding hats to get our takeaways ready for the Solar Decathlon. Hundreds of people came from Appalachian State University and the rest of the community to our folding partys, and we got to talk about Solar Decathlon, sustainability, and solar energy. Without your help this may not have been possible. Thank you!

We can't say it enough these days, it really is great to be a Mountaineer! :)

The Solar Homestead Thanks YOU!

We would like to take time out to recognize and thank all of the people who've supported Appalachian State University's The Solar Homestead!  We've gotten such a tremendous amount of support from our Appalachian family and all of your personal visits to our "home away from home" here in DC, notes, tweets, Facebook "shout outs" emails and calls have all meant so much to us!

The final results of the US Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon will be announced tomorrow, September 30st at 2:30pm.  You can find results at and well as following us at and on Facebook and Twitter.

ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock hanging out at The Solar Homestead with a couple decathletes
As we head into the final day of the contest, we are exhausted and excited, and we're riding the huge wave of the love and support from our Appalachian Family!  You have kept us going, and continue to do so here in the home stretch.

Today is the last day to vote for Appalachian's Solar Homestead in the People's Choice Awards - you can vote until 7pm tonight, so if you haven't voted, please consider doing so.  You can find the vote link at, and it takes only a few seconds!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Appalachian State Places 3rd Place in Architecture Contest!

We are pleased to announce that
 The Solar Homestead has placed 3rd in The Solar Decathlon 2011's architecture contest! 

We couldn't be more proud of our team for this amazing achievement. We overcame huge obstacles in order to excel in this contest, especially due to the fact that Appalachian State University does not have an accredited architecture program. Instead the students of our Building Science program, within the Department of Technology, along with help from the rest of our team, were given the opportunity to step up to the plate and truly shine.

It's great to be a Mountaineer!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reflective Hat Takeaway

Wondering where can you get that hat?

The Solar Homestead designed a dual purpose educational takeaway for the Solar Decathlon 2011.  This takeaway is handed out as an origami reflective hat but it contains a wealth of information on the inside.

The unfolded hat gives in depth explanations to the technological innovations of our reinterpreted Trombe wall, concentrating solar thermal skylight, phase change material thermal storage, and bifacial photovoltaic solar canopy as well as our other house features (including our OMs and Flex space) of the Solar Homestead.

We decided to hand out this reflective hat to serve as an educational tool to better understand and connect with our bifacial solar canopy.

This new bifacial technology utilizes the back face of the double panel to generate electricity from ambient light reflected off the surrounding surfaces, and combines with power from the front face of the panel. This can result in 30% higher power generation, or more kWh,  per square foot.

We hope that everyone comes to Appalachian State University's Solar Homestead at the National Mall's West Potomac Park sometime from now until Oct 2nd.

Monday-Thurday: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Friday-Sunday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Friday, September 23, 2011

Competition and Public Exhibit Have Begun

The Solar Decathlon 2011 had its opening ceremony yesterday, and the Solar Homestead is so excited to have its first judged contests. To keep up with the competition standings go to Solar Decathlon’s website

The affordability contest is a brand new contest to the Solar Decathlon this year. The contest challenges the teams to build a solar powered house that costs somewhere between $250,000- $600,000, with points given out on a sliding scale. This is a great way to measure how residential construction can be zero energy as well as affordable. This is to display how solar technologies can be marketable to the average homeowner and display innovative ideas that can be integrated into the architecture.

The Solar Homestead has created OMs, or Out-building Modules that supply all of the electrical energy that is needed by the home. This feature allows anyone to add PV panels to an existing structure while also providing an outdoor covered space and detached conditioned space.

Our house is affordably marketed to a couple with moderate salaries in the Asheville, North Carolina region. We chose Asheville as our target market because the sustainability movement is well established and our model home fits into the growing trend of green neighborhoods in the region.  

Keep looking for continuous updates all this week on this blog. Also visit our social media sites to stay updated -


Bifacial PV solar Canopy

Our canopy crew has finished our bifacial PV solar canopy. They have been working tirelessly since the very first day of set up to make this feature absolutely beautiful.

Set in a natural white pine structure, our 8.2 kW solar array is architecturally integrated into the Great Porch of the Solar Homestead. Having this allows you to experience your solar energy intimately but still discreetly while you spend quality time with your family and friends on your 800ft2 porch.

Steel columns line the great porch as they lead you past the main house to the detached 120 ft2 flexible living space that also includes a half bath. This self-sufficient addition includes an outdoor shower and kitchen; showing the versatile nature of our modular Outbuilding Module concept. 

This Flex space, as we call it, is topped with an extensive green roof. This sustainable technique will improve the R-value in our roof while making it a more energy efficient building and extending the life of our roofing material.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day Three Wrap Up

Craig Autry has installed all of the Solar Homestead plumbing 
Going Strong!

We wrapped up the third full day of construction on the Solar Homestead at the Solar Decathlon 2011, and the our team is working hard and on schedule.

Yesterday we got our house modules together and our house sealed up tight. Last night Craig worked on hooking up the plumbing and Joe worked on finishing the perforated corrugated metal detail on exterior of the bay window.
Joe Armstrong is working the details out
on the perforated corrugated exterior. Thanks Joe!
Last night we started to install our kitchen cabinets and unloaded our kitchen appliances from the overstuffed box truck.

Today our team has been working on many tasks all at once. This morning the U.S. Department of Energy installed their data logger to keep track of our energy production and consumption. This is critical to prove that we are truly a zero energy home.

One person per jack. All hands on deck to lower
the Solar Homestead!

All hands were on deck when we started on our next task. Slowly and steadily all ten pieces of the house and the great porch were leveled making sure that the threshold of the house is flush and level with its porch. This took considerable time but the job was done just as planned.

Moving into the interior, all appliances, besides our beautiful refrigerator, went into the kitchen today and we feel like our house is becoming a home again.

We are ramping up progress on our ADA accessible ramps! They are looking great and it seems to be all downhill from here. We expect to work through the night to get these finished up.

Dave Lee and Austin Crumpler work
simultaneously to bolt two ramp sections together

Although we have been working long, long hours we are far too excited to admit to our exhaustion just yet. Each and every one of us feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride for our work.

If you are looking for more pictures we have uploaded many more on Flickr. Follow this link

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Moving Together As One

three modules ready to meet
The Appalachian State University Mountaineers are going strong and representing well. The team is working like a well oiled machine and the house modules are together to make one home.

Here are the three house modules of the Solar Homestead that are coming together.

pushing our last module into place
Our team is one of the only teams not using a crane to set up, and the other teams are very interested in seeing how our house is coming together. By building our house directly on to steel trailers with jacks mounted on the bottom we can pull them together and level out on the jacks once pushed together on a special rolling system.

By using this roller system we can push the modules into place with the help of a few team members.

Our house is one so we can now start on the inside of our house to escape the on coming rain.

Check out our new picture album on Facebook at

Also check out more pictures on our Flickr account at

Check back we will be posting again tonight!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Packing Up and Shipping Out

waiting to check in our hotel
The Solar Homestead and team have arrived safely in D.C.

These Appalachian State University students have spent 2 years designing and constructing our modern concept the Solar Homestead, a zero energy home completely powered by harnessing the energy of the sun.

Jose wrapping our house for a safe trip
The Solar Homestead was sent off to Washington D.C. on Thursday afternoon, which was followed by the OMs, or Outbuilding Modules, on Friday along with a small team of construction crew. They arrived safely with the help of our transportation crew and ready to work before we moved on to the National Mall Tuesday night at 11:00 pm.

Starting last night our construction team of seven have been working around the clock putting together our OMs on to the National Mall and are ready to start moving the three house modules in the next 24 hours.

Dave Lee firing up the troops.
The second group of Solar Homestead team members arrived today around 7pm, and have jumped in to take over so that we lose no momentum. We are so excited to be here and we will continue to keep everyone updated.

Please dont forget starting on September 24th you will get the opportunity to vote for your favorite team for People's Choice Award. We will be posting this link when it comes out. 

We are through the roof with excitement and I hope you all are too. I know that many of you have been following us since the beginning and we just want to thank everyone for your support. Go Appalachian State University and go Solar Homestead!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why Closed Cell Insulation?

The Solar Homestead is using a closed-cell spray foam insulation, mixed with an anti-microbial. This product creates a fantastic air and moisture barrier that helps us ensure an air-tight building envelope around our floors. 

Thank you Blue Ridge Energy Works, BREW, for donating the installation! 
Provided by NCFI, InsulStar provides a high R-Value and stops pesky air-infiltration. In addition, this product was very nice to use in tight spaces because it adheres to the oddly shaped surfaces on the underside of our trailers. 

This foam not only gave us peace of mind ensuring a tight building envelope, but it also uses an environmentally friendly blowing agent with zero Ozone Depletion Potential. 

NCFI was awarded the 2004 International Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award from the EPA for their commitment to developing environmentally friendly SPF insulation systems. 

Thank you NCFI for donating your product to make this a healthy home. A special thanks to Blue Ridge Energy Works (BREW) for donating the installation!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Introducing: Beard Blog #1

Just like our house concept, traditional Appalachian homesteading, our guys on the team are sticking with a regional tradition as well... Appalachian men have grown beards for centuries as a means to conserve precious time and energy, and in this last big push our guys have given up shaving too.

Check out some of our accomplished leaders and team members. Hope you enjoy this as much as we do!!

Not only do these guys have dedication to the Solar Homestead, 
they have dedication to growing their awesome beards!

Now, that's team spirit!

"Ask Me About My OM" T-Shirts For Sale!!

Solar Homestead T-Shirts are in and FOR SALE!
For only $15, stop by the Solar Homestead Headquarters today and get yours to 
help support and promote the Solar Homestead!!!

The Solar Homestead Headquarters is located at 1100 East King St. Boone, NC 28607
right across the street from the New Market Shopping Center.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Final Local Public Tours before Solar Decathlon 2011

Beautiful: multi-generational interest here in the High Country
This Saturday the Solar Homestead team hosted our final local public tours. This all day event was a huge success, and we were delighted to hear that so many people, from all over, have been following our progress.

Over 200 people from all over North Carolina, as well as visitors from around the country, were overjoyed to see the Solar Homestead so close to completion.  This has been an excellent learning experience for our team. In getting prepared to tour thousands of visitor on the National Mall, our local public tours get us prepared for those sometime unexpected questions.
Ed sure can captivate an audience.

You can check out these photos and much more on our Flickr page -

We can't wait to show the Solar Homestead to all of our visitors on the National Mall at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011.

Public tours of all 19 house can be seen on the National Mall's West Potomac Park from September 23- October 2. For more information about the Solar Decathlon 2011 visit