Rooftop solar panel installation is becoming increasingly popular in new home construction, and with governments offering ever more enticing tax credits, retrofit installation is picking up steam, as well. In the right areas, like the American southwest, photovoltaic panels can produce a surplus of energy, allowing homeowners to sell power back to the grid. (Imagine getting a check every month from the power company instead of a bill!)
But what if your house didn’t generate a little payback, but a big one? German architect Rolf Disch has designed a house he calls Der Heliotrop. Not only does the entire house rotate for even sun exposure, but the giant 6.6-kilowatt solar array on the roof can tilt and spin independently to track the sun, for a 40% boost in efficiency.
That isn’t the home’s only green trick, though: rainwater is also captured on the roof, and recycled once it’s used. In addition, captured water is circulated through tubes on the outside of the house for hot water, and run through the walls for climate control. Triple-paned glass makes up the final component of the puzzle, allowing maximum light with the least impact on internal air temperature. The net result? This house generates an unprecedented five times the power it consumes.
It may all seem a bit like Tomorrowland, but this house is a fully integrated and functioning prototype for the house of the hopefully not-too-distant future. What engineers learn from how this house and others like it operate paves the way for the greener, more efficient days to come. Imagine having a Michael Bay film festival in your home theater and not cringing at the power bill at the end of the month, a heater that only needs to kick on on the coldest days, and only needing artificial lighting after sunset and the cloudiest of days. Granted, our houses probably won’t all be spinning and tilting, even 50 years from now. But think of this amazing home like you would a concept car. Are you likely to be driving the Corvette Stingray Concept Car anytime soon? Nuh uh. But innovations from that prototype have already found their way into Chevy’s new Camaro.
It’s not all as far-fetched as it seems.
Rolf Disch Solar Architecture