Cutting Edge Technology of Living Light: Ventilated Facade and Passively Tracking Solar Array

The University of Tennessee’s Living Light house is engineered with an innovative design that maximizes visibility and natural light without sacrificing efficiency. Energy savings are realized by the owners as they interface with the Living Light house through the use of an touchpad interface.

The home generates its power from a 10.9 kW solar array composed of cylindrically shaped PV modules. They act as a passive tracking system capturing sunlight from all directions, including light reflected up from the white roof. This results in more power generation throughout the day than fixed flat plate collectors. They are lightweight, offer reduced installation costs, and have proven reliable. The panels also hang over the south façade to provide shading in the summer.

For complete shading control, the touchpad interface operates the blinds within the facade to reduce, or enhance, solar heat gains, reducing the annual cooling energy by nearly 50%.

The double glass façade solves the design challenge of maximizing transparency, views, and natural lighting without compromising the thermal envelope. It consists of an inner, insulating, double pane window separated by multiple mylar films. A second glass pane is spaced 15 inches from the interior window creating a ventilated air cavity. This design improves thermal comfort, reduces drafts and infiltration, and reduces noise compared to the average window. The ventilation system uses the façade’s air cavity to enhance the thermal performance of the house. In the summer, fresh air is brought into the home on a prescribed cycle through the north window cavity. This air exchanges heat in an Energy Recovery Ventilator and exhausts stale air through the southern windows, cooling the cavity, and reducing thermal heat gains. The system is reversed in the winter preheating air from the south façade and exhausting stale air out through the north façade, warming the cavity to buffer heat losses. After modeling this system, we concluded that the ventilated facade should effectively accomplish all of our heating and cooling needs for the year without using any energy produced by our solar array. This means the power generated by the Living Light house will only service our lighting and appliances, which it truly exciting.

Overall, by using reliable, proven, commercially available technologies the Living Light house is predicted to use about 6,700 kWh/yr which is less than half the energy consumed by a standard home of similar size in the Tennessee climate.

The Living Light home is a truly innovative feat that combines modern technology and sleek aesthetics to set an example for energy conscious living in Tennessee and beyond.


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