Take a Tour of NCSU's Solar Off-Grid House


Published:

Courtesy of Laura Bottomley

Did you ever want to visit a solar house, walk around inside and imagine yourself living there? Did you ever wonder how you would cook food, turn on the lights, run your computer, play video games or stay warm in wintertime in a home powered only by the sun?

You may have also wondered, “What does a solar house look like? Does it have huge windows, strange panels, an odd shape?”

Now you can get answers to these questions by visiting a solar house, right here in the Triangle. North Carolina State University has built a fully functioning solar house at 1201 Gorman St. in Raleigh, and opened it to the public for free tours. 

Fun for Kids

Laura Bottomley, director of NCSU’s Women in Engineering and The Engineering Place, offers tours along with educational projects to help children learn about off-grid living. 

There's something to interest children of all ages. My younger child loved constructing a windmill and measuring how much electricity he could generate by blowing at different speeds and changing blade angles. My high-schooler learned about the home's solar panel crystalline structure, number of kilowatts produced by different photo-voltaic panels, costs of production and more from the diagrammed signs posted throughout the house. 

Both kids were fascinated by the space-age globes in the ceiling. Bottomley demonstrated these solar skylights with a switch that could brighten or dim the home's lighting by angling collectors on top of the roof. 

My kids and I were delighted to find a huge deciduous Kiwi vine covering the atrium windows. Bottomley explained to us that the vine gives both cool shade and delicious fruit to eat! 

Surprisingly Luxurious

Surprisingly, NCSU's solar house looks about the same as your typical fossil-fueled home, and even seems a bit more luxurious. It features a comfy living room with a fireplace, bedrooms, double-sink bathrooms, a beautiful two-story atrium with French doors and a full granite kitchen.

While it may look typical, the solar house accommodates an array of state-of-the-art, off-grid features that kids will enjoy learning about and exploring. For example, underneath the floorboards are rocks, which store or release heat to either cool or warm your feet as you walk above. Oversize windows bring heat into the atrium, which is circulated throughout the house in the wintertime. In the summertime, the opposite happens, and the heat is absorbed by thick brick or concrete walls.

On the warm July day my children and I visited, it was 95 degrees outside, but when we stepped inside the atrium we felt instantly cool — without any air-conditioning running!

The roof tiles feature a mix of recycled rubber and plastic and, as Bottomley pointed out, six big solar roof panels accommodate larger crystals for more efficient transmission of sunlight into power. However, “the challenge is to get more efficiency,” she says. Currently the home’s panels are only 18 percent efficient.

Even so, the home was fully operational — an inverter converts DC current from the panels to household AC to run the home’s stainless steel high efficiency appliances. Geothermal heating, a windmill and a wood stove also help heat and cool the home.

NCSU's Solar House is an amazing place to discover how renewable energy works to help us live comfortably without fossil fuels. By the time our kids grow up, NCSU's solar house may be a common sight in many Triangle neighborhoods.

The Solar House at NCSU's The Engineering Place is located at 1201 Gorman St. in Raleigh. The Solar House stands just to the right of the McKimmon Center. Plentiful parking is available and free educational tours are available for groups of all ages. The house and will be closed from May 1 to Sept. 1, 2016, and will reopen in the fall for school groups to schedule tours. To schedule a tour, email Laura Bottomley at laurab@ncsu.edu.

The author and her son, Alexi, toured the NCSU Solar House in July.

Photo courtesy of Lorraine Marie Jorden

The Solar House at NCSU's The Engineering Place is located at 1201 Gorman St. in Raleigh. The Solar House stands just to the right of the McKimmon Center. Plentiful parking is available and free educational tours are available for groups of all ages. To schedule a tour, email Laura Bottomley at laurab@ncsu.edu.

MORE FIELD TRIP IDEAS

Explore these Top Field Trip Destinations in the Triangle.

Photo courtesy of the Museum of Life and Science in Durham

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

30 Days of Giveaways: Day 23

Enter to win a variety of Alex Brand toys and a Kammock Roo Jr.

30 Days of Giveaways: Day 22

Enter to win a little Christmas in September, flu season prep supplies and more!

Sept. 24-27: Take a Child Outside Week Activities Galore

Take a sunset walk, learn about “hoppers" and investigate trees in Raleigh; and hear a nature-inspired story and explore a garden in Durham.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Embrace your inner rebel and celebrate the motorcycle lifestyle with family-friendly activities ranging from stunt shows and specialty rides to live music and local vendors. See website for hours.

Cost: $10 for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  17560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Experience a full day of outdoor experiences, nature adventures and family-friendly activities to kick off Take a Child Outside Week.

Cost: Free

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a 5K race, a kid’s dash and family activities to raise awareness in the fight against lung cancer in North Carolina. 

Cost: Free-$30

Where:
Midtown Park
4011 Cardinal at North Hills
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill – a place of business, community and exciting local history! Explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water as it turns the milling...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Pepper Fest heats up with a fresh array of pepper-themed dishes and brews, family activities, a kid chef competition and zesty live music.

Cost: $5-$30

Where:
The Great Meadow, Briar Chapel
161 Salt Cedar Ln.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Monday, Sept. 24, 11 a.m.–noon Let’s celebrate the arrival of Fall! Make a craft inspired by the leaves’ changing colors. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all...

Cost: free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Contact Name: Ashley Martin

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Search the meadow for katydid, cicadas, crickets and other incredible insects that make up approximately 80% of the world’s species of animals. All ages. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2–3:30 p.m. The harvest season was a busy time for Laura Ingalls Wilder's pioneer family. Put on your straw hat or sun bonnet and head to the park to try out the types of farm...

Cost: $6/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Discover how beavers live, eat and play in their watery world. Search for beaver signs around the pond. Ages 3-5 with parent. Advance registration required.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy croquet, bocci, corn hole, ladder ball and more. Register online. Choose course #117149.

Cost: $4/resident, $5/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Play giant board games and special activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Cary Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy nature-themed books followed by a hands-on activity or garden exploration. Ages 3-5 with adult. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
Website »

More information

Apple Day features fresh North Carolina apples, an apple dessert and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy trivia about sports, music, movies and more. Register online. Choose course #116583.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Mums and pumpkins take center stage at this festival featuring food trucks, inflatables, hayrides and vendors.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Welcome fall's arrival with a food truck rodeo, car show, face painting, a craft show and more.  

Cost: Free

Where:
125 U.S. 1-A
Youngsville, NC  27596
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy national and regional professional dancers from the Wake Forest dance community and beyond, as well locally rising advanced dance performers. 

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a 1.4-mile walk for inclusiveness. Registration and activities begin at 10 a.m.; walk begins at 10:30 a.m. Enjoy refreshments, games, raffle and a decorating station. All ages and...

Cost: $15/family, $5/individual

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Mums and pumpkins take center stage at this festival featuring food trucks, inflatables, hayrides and vendors.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family for a celebration of Orange County’s heritage and culture. Enjoy local food, music, cooking demonstrations, local artists and crafters, and kids’ activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Blackwood Farm Park
4215 NC Hwy 86
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Government
Telephone: 919-245-2063
Contact Name: Mike Lanier
Website »

More information

Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Matthew Cordell's upcoming tour for his next book, "King Alice," will make a stop at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. Cordell most recently won the Caldecott Medal for his picture book,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a day at the park and listen to stories from professional storytellers in an event presented in partnership with Wake County Public Libraries. Enjoy a wagon shuttle, activity tents, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Wake County Public Libraries and Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space
Telephone: 919-212-7695
Contact Name: Abby Jones
Website »

More information

Take the family for pony rides, riding demonstrations, miniature horses and a petting area, hayrides, games, food trucks and an appearance by Woody and Jesse from Toy Story. Purchase activity bands...

Cost: Admission is free. Some activities charge a fee.

Where:
Horses for Hope
2909 Banks Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate Morrisville, Wake County’s most diverse community, with a day of food, culture and music from around the world. Kids can enjoy face painting and a bounce house.

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Website »

More information

Snakes are very misunderstood and feared, yet are so important to the ecosystem. Meet some friendly snakes up close and learn about common snakes found in this area. All ages. Meet at the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Be part of the 2017 Harvest Festival, organized by St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church Raleigh, where authentic freshly cooked food, stage performances, music, live auction,...

Cost: Free

Where:
St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church
225 Bashford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.