One of the entries to this years Solar Decathlon competition is the so-called FluxHome project, envisioned and designed by a team of University of Southern California students. Their 1,000-square-foot solar-powered entry will be controlled by a single iPad. This ability to control all the complicated automation systems of this sustainable home offers the team an edge in the competition. FluxHome also uses the advantage of ample sunlight of the Southern California region to improve the indoor quality of life in this home.

The Crestron smart home automation system will regulate lights, humidity, temperature, security and energy usage of the house. The interface is user friendly and shows in dollars and cents what each device costs homeowners to use. Special occupancy sensors show when a room is empty and work to automatically turn off all non-essential devices.


The house will be powered by a 7.88 KW photovoltaic array by Bosch. The system also features an Enphase microinverter and a Bosch solar thermal flat plate collector. Among the other notable innovations of FluxHome is a solar chimney, which features a retractable skylight made by Velux that modulates sunlight and air for daylighting and natural ventilation. The solar chimney also works to bring the inhabitants of the home closer to their outdoor environment since it frames the sky. And the retractable exterior shade minimizes the ocular solar heat gain.

FluxHome will be heated and cooled by a combination heat pump package that provides heating, cooling ,and domestic hot water in a single product. The designed system operates with a high-efficiency Daikin Altherma fan coil that uses an electronically commutated motor (ECM) for efficient part-load operation during the temperate months of the Southern California region. The air-to-water Daikin Altherma Monobloc heat pump utilizes a high efficiency, low friction scroll compressor and is designed so as to circulate chilled and heating hot water to the fan-coil rather than distributed refrigerant.

The energy efficient components together with the reduced refrigerant also work to minimize the potential for ozone depletion and global warming. Domestic water heating will be achieved by solar thermal energy through the use of roof-mounted solar collectors.

The building envelope system is built to modulate sunlight and air. The system features a rainscreen façade with an air gap. This reduces heat gain from solar radiation and increases the R-value of the exterior wall construction

Other sustainable feature of the project include:

– Vertical gardens and lawns, which use a drip irrigation system that will let the owners grow their own vegetables and herbs with minimal water usage. This garden also functions as a filter that will improve air quality.

– LED lighting and daylighting is used throughout the house.

– Innovative light shelves and window “hoods” are used for shading and therefore reduce the cooling load on the HVAC.