Texas BLOOMing Green

If you were visiting the famous University of Texas Observatory, you might wonder about the strange building with the shiny roof that sits unassumingly to the side.  Your curiosity might lead you to take a closer look.  If so, you would be in for a treat, because this is BLOOMhouse, UTSolar’s entry into the international solar competition held in Washington D.C.The Solar Decathlon is a challenge to engineer, design and build a small house that is completely solar powered, and produces enough excess energy to power an electric vehicle.  Areas of competition include; Architecture, Engineering, Market Viability, Communications, Comfort Zone, Appliances, Hot Water, Lighting, Energy Balance and Getting Around.The team at University of Texas took the challenge to heart when visualizing BLOOMhouse, and managed to build a “muscle car” of solar powered homes.  Currently, the solar array at BLOOMhouse powers the house itself, two hot water heaters, an outdoor Dutch tub and another small dwelling with energy to spare.BLOOMhouse produces so much energy that there are times when the occupants have to waste as much energy as possible, just to keep the batteries safe from overcharging.  To keep up with the energy output, they have done things like run the A.C. with the doors open, blare music for hours from the wide screen plasma T.V., and using any and all other electrical appliances.While BLOOMhouse itself is estimated at about $450k, another part of the competition was to also produce a marketable prototype that would be more suited to the average consumer.  The team managed just that by producing a prototype that costs approximately $110.  Although it does not have the massive power output of BLOOMhouse, it is built using the same components, strategies and form.  Best of all, it’s developed to work with pre- manufactured homes, so cost is further decreased.

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