SOLAR HOME: ISU Interlock House finds new home after competing in Solar Decathlon

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A unique home built by about 200 Iowa State University students now has a new home. It's called the Interlock House, and students continue to learn from the solar powered structure they built for the 2009 Solar Decathlon.

With a kitchen, washer/dryer and bed, Hannah Whiltamuth's new office doesn't look like a typical place to work. She says, "A lot of my coworkers tease me. I come home to work."

Whiltamuth is the Interpretive Programs Director for the Department of Natural Resources at Honey Creek Resort State Park. ISU students reassembled the Interlock House on the southern Iowa park's property to serve as the DNR's office.

Research Assistant Nick Hulstrom is part of the Iowa State University Team that originally built the 800 square foot house to compete in the Solar Decathlon sponsored by the US Department of Energy. He says, "Just having a home that can run completely off the grid and under it's own energy. That says a lot."

The solar panels on the roof produce electricity for the lights and appliances. A sun space produces thermal energy. And, radiant floor heating provides hot water for the house. ISU Professor Ulrike Passe says, "Over the year the house will produce the amount of energy it uses. Not always at the same time, but in general."

Design, architecture, engineering and communications students all worked on the project. They had to put it together on the National Mall in Washington DC to see if the home could provide its own energy. Now, researchers are collecting data to see if it can produce the same results in Iowa for an entire year. Hulstrom says, "This is kind of the prototype for Midwestern climate, so this will reveal how it will perform for the average Midwesterner."

So far, Hulstrom says the house is doing its job, and now visitors are able to see the solar powered home close to home, so people can visit it at Honey Creek Resort State Park.

The team says the custom built house would cost about $350,000, but the price would come down if a builder mass produced it.