Solar Decathlon provides lessons for home builders

Homeowners, environment reap the benefits

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(This is the second of a two-part series. See Part 1: Students prove solar-powered utopia does exist.) Is it possible to live well in a house powered entirely by energy from the sun? The answer is yes, as demonstrated by the 18 houses designed and built by the student teams that competed in the Solar Decathlon last month on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The teams, about equally divided between engineering and architecture students, represented schools in the United States, Canada and Spain. Is it hard to build such a house? Not as hard as you might suspect. Though generating electricity from sunlight might seem to be the Solar Decathlon's most daunting challenge, the technology is readily available, but not widely utilized because of its cost. Converting sunlight into heat for space heating and hot water is also a relatively easy task. The technology for this is also readily available, not nearly as costly, but still not widely utilized.  The challenge for the Solar Decathlon tea...