If you haven’t already heard, we are designing a SUstainable+REsilient SURE HOUSE as our Stevens Institute entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. At it’s core SURE HOUSE is a super efficient, solar powered, net-zero home that could’ve survived Hurricane Sandy. We also didn’t want to just stop there, so we have been thinking of ways for SURE HOUSE to actually help the community after a storm has passed through. One of our concepts is what we’re calling the REsilient Charging Hub for community members to come by and charge up their devices with clean solar energy, because we all know how much peace of mind can come from having a charged phone.
As you might imagine, coastal areas can be especially susceptible to power outages and really anywhere is susceptible when you’re dealing with hurricanes. What most people don’t realize is that most solar homes can’t provide power during an outage because the systems are tied into the grid. So without an expensive battery backup system or a dirty diesel generator you would pretty much out of luck. At SURE HOUSE we are using a piece of technology called a transformerless inverter. It serves as an inverter converting our solar DC power to household AC power, but what’s unique is it’s ability to isolate or island itself from the grid, learn more. This means we are able to produce some emergency power while the sun is out and we thought it would be cool to allocate a portion of this emergency power for USB chargers that our neighbors could use. We wanted to get a better idea for how something like could be constructed, so we built it…and it totally works!
At the entry of our home we are utilizing planters to cover our water tanks, and we thought this area would be good as a public gathering spot with integrated USB outlets. We detailed the design as a deep seated bench with gel-coated backing where USB outlets could go. The wood finish would match the ramp/decking material and the gel-coat matches the composite finish of our storm shutters.
In designing a house to resist flooding and hurricanes, this charging hub needs to be REsilient as well. Since it is located in an area vulnerable to flooding we needed to waterproof all the electrical componentry. So in the spirit of many of the other details of our home, we adopted from the marine industry. The USB outlets are actually marine-grade electrical receptacles and our additional electronics are all housed within a NEMA 12 rated waterproof enclosure.