Santa Clara University


Solar Decathletes Keep Their Cool

Things are heating up as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon nears, but Bronco decathletes are keeping their cool developing a radiant heating and cooling system as teammates prepare to build SCU’s entry, Radiant House, a 1,000 sq. ft. solar-powered home to compete against entries from 19 other international universities in Irvine, California, this coming October.

Solar Decathletes Michael Holligan and Peyton Harrod
Michael Holligan (left) and Peyton Harrod
Photo: Charles Barry

Like the Olympic decathlon, the Solar competition is broken into ten contests. Mechanical engineering juniors Peyton Harrod and Michael Holligan are taking on the Comfort Zone Contest in which the house will be judged on how well it keeps temperature and humidity steady, uniform, and comfortable during specified periods of time throughout the competition. The pair have spent long hours researching the best thermal system for the home, studying the efficiency of energy transfer, considering the placement of windows and effect of sunlight, and working with industry leader, Messana, to design a system integrating the company’s pre- fabricated radiant panels into the floors, ceilings, or walls to maximize comfort and efficiency.  

“We’ve calculated the energy we anticipate we will need to heat and cool the house during competition using software that takes into account the number of windows, type of insulation, and site orientation. Based on that information, we determined the size of the system we would need," said Harrod. “Radiant heating and cooling feels different from traditional forced air—it really does feel great. We’re excited to bring this experience to the competition while achieving our energy goals and making sure the system meets the heating and cooling loads.”  

So just how are they using those radiant panels? “For now, that information is classified,” said Holligan; “Come out to Irvine in October and we’ll be happy to tell you all about it.”  

More on SCU’s team:

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