The Solar Homestead: Solar Decathlon 2011

The Solar Homestead was the Appalachian State University’s entry for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon and was inspired by traditional Appalachian settlements. Solar Homestead is composed of multiple buildings that form a self sufficient ensemble. Six outbuilding modules connect to form the Great Porch, an outdoor living space protected by an 8.2 kW trellis of bifacial solar cells. Inside, the 833 sq ft (77 sq m) house features two bedrooms, a day-lit bathroom, energy efficient appliances, and a versatile living and dining area. The Solar Homestead also includes an independent 120 sq ft (11 sq m) Flex Space that can be used as a home office, art studio, or guest quarters.

The Solar Homestead merges traditional sustainable practices with modern clean-energy technology; more details below.

The house meets the needs of this market by providing a secure investment for the experienced homebuyer through energy independence, modular adaptability, and long-lasting, sustainable materials. The combination of renewable technologies and sustainable design provides a distinctive dwelling for the new homesteader, an emerging group that values independence, the land, and the environment.

What’s Next? After competing in Solar Decathlon 2011, the Solar Homestead will travel the state of North Carolina to promote renewable energy education. The team will teach visitors the value of sustainable technology and environmental preservation. When the tour concludes, the house will return to Appalachian State University to serve as an educational tool for future Mountaineers.

Credits: A special thanks to Jim Tetro, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, and Appalachian State University


  • Property Type: Showcase 
  • Listing Type: Not For Sale 
  • Location: Asheville, United States 
  • Bedrooms:
  • Bathrooms:
  • Floor area (sq ft): 833 

Energy Efficiency

  • Energy Efficient Appliances: Energy efficient appliances installed throughout the house. 
  • Energy Efficient Lighting: Energy efficient lighting installed throughout the house. 
  • Window Insulation: Yes. 
  • Wall, Floor, Roof and Cavity Insulation: A Trombe wall that is filled with phase change material to store heat throughout the day and release it at night. 


  • Solar Photovoltaic: Forty two bifacial photovoltaic panels that supply solar energy while providing filtered daylight and protection from the elements. 
  • Solar Thermal: An on demand solar thermal domestic hot water system that uses phase change materials to provide constant water temperature in compact storage. 

Design Principles

  • Other Design Principles: Design Philosophy: The Solar Homestead embodies independence and ingenuity - qualities reflected in the heritage of traditional homesteads. The Solar Homestead fuses these values into an innovative, ultra efficient house that is adaptable, self sufficient, affordable, and attractive. It is focused around a central living core with collective buildings that adapt to the needs of modern families. 


  • Prefabricated Construction: Six outbuilding modules connect to form the Great Porch. 
  • Other: Outbuilding modules inspired by lean-to sheds that link to form sheltered outdoor living and work space. A generous outdoor living space called the Great Porch that embodies the lifestyle of early settlers. The adaptable, conditioned Flex Space, which features a half-bath, outdoor shower, and outdoor kitchen and can serve as a home office, guest suite, or cabin retreat. 


  • art studio
  • Flex Space
  • guest quarters
  • home office
  • outdoor living space