solar decathlon 2015

Team Alfred's OFFICIAL BLOG!

This was a multi-faceted collaboration between Alfred State College and Alfred University for the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy's national competition in Irvine, California. Scroll down to the start of the blog to get a sense of what the event was and is.

I myself was originally commissioned as the teams designer. I later became a decathlete to go compete with the team. Since I was going to California I also convinced the school to let me bring along my work to have a solo art show in the teams solar house. (Blog post from Day 7 highlights my involvement.)

Days 4-5


Day 4 — Sunday Oct. 11

The forth day I had off from the competition, but there was some interesting updates that I need to share- despite the lack of photos.


Each house on the Solar Decathlon field gets a number and a sign to improve visitors navigation from house to house.



Today was the end of public tours, but not the last.

Tours will resume on Day 8, Thursday Oct. 15th, after the judging walkthroughs have been completed. However as tours were being delivered, competition points were still up for grabs. 

This Solar Decathlon Minute describes a bit more in depth how teams earn points.


It's all about the Benjamins!

We did end up losing some points on things like the livability competition. Each night we leave the air conditioner on to cool the house and cut down on humidity. In the mornings at 11am we shut off the AC to open our doors for public tours. The house stays cool for most of the day, but then later after tours we need to turn it back on. Well on Day 1 we had to host our first dinner party and we forgot to turn the AC back on in the midst of things. Because of this the sensors picked up higher humidity and warmer temperatures than the other homes that had their AC on. 

Wireless temperature/humidity reader for competition statistics and competitions.


Hot Water Draw Competition

This task is another challenge to prepare for in which we used solar hot water connections on the roof paired with a hot water tank. Normally our solar hot water can heat up to 80 gallons of hot water during the day. Everything had been going well too, until we found out, for no reason in particular, that our hot water tank died.


Clothes Washer/ Clothes Dryer

All of our towels that we had to wash never completely dried, and our hot water test was extremely low as one would expect when equipment fails.  This set us back 7 points. Even though most of the teams had marginal points separating one another, it translated to us being pushed down to 10th place out of 14 teams rather than 6th like we were. Because this was something out of our control, and it is a simple fix, we were able to just swap out the old heater with a new one of the same model.


Day 5

Monday, Oct. 12th 2015


Tours have officially been put on hold in order to start the judged walkthroughs; that of which is instrumental to the success or downfall of each teams home. These walkthroughs are heavily weighed in points as they define the house on a professional level on several categories. 

This Solar Decathlon Minute gives an overview of all the teams homes.


Engineering walkthrough

This judged walk was delivered by Patrick Byrne, AU grad Saeed Azad and by our super senior & team captain Avery Sandler. I was told that the walk went very well and that we only have a few hiccups that should not matter much. Saeed told me that he was very excited and felt good after giving his speech to them on different systems because he explained it well and in such great detail that the judges had no questions for him.

Alfred University students and engineering judges.

Alfred University students and engineering judges.


Patrick Byrne keeping our garden looking fresh!

Abnormally hot fall Temperatures!

Our garden, grass and flower boxes around the house need constant watering to keep them from dying. The weather we have been having here in Southern California since we have been here is extremely strange for this time of year- we have been told. Normally it has cooled down and 75-85°F each day. Instead we have has 95-105°F days! 


Nice dry towels folded up after the solar dryer task.


Clothes Washing/Drying Competition

After each walkthrough, students leave while judges walk around amongst themselves for additional conversations and not taking. After they left we were able to begin the task of the day: solar dryer and hot water tests. We nailed it. Switching our hot water tank out the day before had allowed us to not only dry all of the towels up to the standards but I did hear a fail amount of cheering while they were drawing some hot water samples from the bathroom. 


Team Alfred Social Media

The second and last jury walkthrough of the day was one called social media. This contest was one that had arisen out of nowhere just a short time ago. Basically you are scored based on the quality and quantity of social media posts across various networks. There is not much to say than the team does in fact have an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and our own website. Despite having all of these things established however, we do not post as often as we should in this day in age. Especially from an artists standpoint, I can see the enthusiasm and interest in this event being much larger if the team would have taken the time investing in growing an audience before the competition. 


Lighting Task

The last event of the night began at 7pm and required teams to turn every single light on in their home and leave it on for 4 hours. Most teams have automation working, but we have had issued with routers and connections in our home that drop at random so we need to be there.  Someone else was to stay for this, but I picked up the slack and stayed by myself. It was not ideal, but I used to to get caught up on this for all of you! Most nights this task is required. All the houses have different styles of lighting, and the task required that ALL lights be on and at full brightness, the TV also being on but at 75% brightness.