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Interlock House

Interlock House is on the move

By Ulrike Passe, 2009-09-28 18:44:29

Truck with house modules on country road

Off to a good start....1000+ miles to go.



Holy Massive Turnout Batman!

By Tim Lentz, 2009-08-31 13:00:13

The Interlock House hosts hordes of interested visitors during the August open house

If anyone has been wondering why I haven't posted anything for several days, it's because I (along with everyone else on our team) have been doing my best to get the Interlock House ready for its big public unveiling.  We had our open house this weekend and couldn't have had a nicer day.  I took this photo after about two hours of standing next to the mechanical room and talking to people about our systems.    I was floored by the amount of people still in line after that long.  I felt like I had already talked to half the people in Ames and then saw this huge line when I finally took a break.  The turnout was so great that we ended up staying an extra half hour to talk to everyone.  The public reaction was wonderful and it was great to meet so many people that were interested in what we've been up to.  I think we all kind of surprised ourselves too with how quickly and nicely things came together in the last week.  There's still some work to finish up, but  we still had a great house to show off on Saturday.  On behalf of the team, I just want to thank everyone who came out to see the house and talk with us about the project.  I hope that you'll all keep following the team, especially when we go to Washington DC in October.  I think the plan is to do some video blogs while we're there instead of stationary pictures.  So stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the 2009 Solar Decathlon.

Grid-tied Inverters: The Solar Small Intestine

By Tim Lentz, 2009-08-20 11:13:38

Xantrex grid-tied inverters, pretty much the coolest things ever

Finally, we have some technical equipment installed that I can talk about.  Here we see our two grid-tied inverters which were generously supplied by Xantrex (a Schneider Electric company).  The photovoltaic array on the roof produces direct current electricity while almost every device in the house runs off of alternating current electricity.  These inverters convert the direct current electricity to alternating current.  I wanted to say that they are the heart of the house, but that's not really accurate.  I guess the inverters are more like the small intestine of the house because they convert energy.  It's important to know the anatomy of the Interlock House, hopefully I can keep the analogy going with other parts of the house.  But I digress...

These inverters are particularly well suited to our house and any house where the owner would like to add an after market photovoltaic array.  The inverters are grid-tied which means that there is no need for a battery bank to store extra energy.  All the extra electricity generated by the array is fed into the electrical grid.  This causes the electrical meter on the house to spin backwards!  In some cases when the house produces more electricity than it uses in a month, the electrical company actually pays the owner for the extra electricity.  A grid-tied system is also much cheaper and easier to install than an off-grid system since there is much less equipment necessary.

In addition to converting electricity, making installation easier and generally looking spiffy, these inverters also log how much electricity has been produced by the solar array.  They are touch sensitive so all the user has to do to scroll through menus is tap the exterior casing.  The inverters can also be hooked up to a home computer so that the output can be easily read without visiting the mechanical room.  This easy access to information about the solar array helps the owner more easily understand just how much clean energy they are supplying to the grid and how much electricity they avoid purchasing from the grid.

I'm sorry if I seem like I'm gushing about the inverters but they are my shiny new toys and I want to show them off.



By Eric Berkson, 2009-08-19 15:59:56

Kitchen cabinetry in the warehouse.

Last week the kitchen and bedroom cabinetry arrived. The cabinetry was milled at Des Moines Area Community College by students in the Architectural Millwork program. The cabinets in this photo will eventually hold most of the kitchen appliances including our microwave, dishwasher, and sink. An interesting note about the sink, the cabinet directly below it can be removed temporarily or permanently to allow wheelchair access. This is just one of many universal design features which have been built into the house.

Major sponsors Iowa State University U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory