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DMU experts behind Britain's first solar-powered home

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STUNNING: The Solar House is worth £1.2m

The UK’s first fully solar-powered new-build home has gone on the market with a price tag of £1.2million.

De Montfort University’s Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD) is part of the team behind the five-bedroom Solar House, in Great Glen, built by Caplin Homes.

Set to exceed the requirements of the government’s 2016 zero-carbon target, the house, which is set in two acres, is designed to collect enough solar energy to provide heating and hot water, and around twice the electricity needed to run the system.

The Solar House uses an innovative combination of existing sustainable technologies to collect and store solar energy for use throughout the year.

Backers hope the Solar House will demonstrate to builders that zero-carbon house building is possible, affordable and economically viable.

Following the completion and sale of the property, Caplin Homes and the consortium behind the house’s construction will offer out-of-the-box, scalable solutions for house builders.

Dr Andrew Wright, of DMU’s Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, said: “So far the calculations suggest that the Solar House will perform well, so we’re looking forward to starting our analyses once the house is occupied. We’re very proud to have been asked to join the project and act as an independent assessor of its zero-carbon status.

“The house building industry has to move towards more energy efficient living if it is to meet government targets and the Solar House project could be a landmark stage in that process.”

DMU’s expertise in the field of sustainability and energy research led to them being approached to take part in this innovative project.

Michael Goddard, director of Caplin Homes said: “We want to prove that government targets are achievable and that genuine zero-carbon homes are a viable investment for UK house builders. The Solar House shows how existing technologies can be used for a large family home but we plan to offer solutions for all house sizes.”

The key technologies utilised in the project include an array of hybrid solar panels, which collect both electrical and thermal energy, solar walls to pre-heat the incoming ventilation air, and an Earth Energy Bank (EEB) and heat pump to store and retrieve heat for use in winter. Excess energy collected during warmer months will be stored underneath the house in the EEB and pumped back to heat the home in winter.

South-facing triple glazed windows will also enhance the house’s performance during winter months. The technologies will be managed by a state-of-the art control system, which takes into account the inside and outside temperatures, the energy flow from the solar panels, and the heat levels in the EEB and domestic hot water tank, to optimise the performance of the system.

Due to its low energy design, the Solar House is expected to only require heat from the EEB for about 10 weeks of the year.

Michael said: “Energy bills are steadily increasing so for the householder, the zero-carbon home is an exciting prospect. Hopefully the Solar House will prove that it is also an achievable and desirable step for house builders.”

The project has been completed by a consortium including Caplin Homes; Newform Energy, which provided the hybrid solar panels, heat pump and control system; John Cotterill Sustainable Architecture and DMU. As part of the project, an MSc research student from De Montfort will monitor the Solar House’s performance over its first 12 months.

Posted on Tuesday 1st October 2013

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