The Moonstone House was meticulously designed and built between 2002 and 2009 to put the best renewable and energy efficiency technologies of its day to the test. Better than that, the owner continues to search out the latest and greatest technologies to showcase them throughout the property. Robert Llewelyn and Fully Charged visited Moonstone House and dug into why it exists and why it continues to evolve so many yeas later.
It is not intended to be a home for the average person, but rather, a gigantic testbed to pull out all the stops to test technology, demonstrating what’s possible for all of us, at a considerably smaller scale, in our own homes. Using larger, more expensive buildings as testbeds for cutting edge technologies is a great way to pilot solutions in the real world before they are scaled down in size and cost for the masses. The principal is very similar to how automotive companies use Formula 1 and Formula E to develop and test cutting edge vehicle tech before rolling it out to production vehicles.
The foundational technology of Moonstone House is unsurprisingly nontechnical. Massive amounts of insulation keep the thermal energy in the house, minimizing the amount of external energy required to keep it warm or cool. When the home was built from 2003 t0 2009, they used a more than 1-foot extruded polystyrene insulation barrier in the walls. Though it’s not the most environmentally friendly insulation, it was the best insulation available at the time. Since then, a new line of vacuum insulation panels call VACUPOR were invented and pack roughly the same insulating capability in a skin that’s just 10 mm thick. Having just rebuilt our home last year, we researched insulation and opted to fill the walls with copious amounts of spray-in insulation. The march into the future never stops.
When needed, heat for the home comes from a pair of ground-source heat pumps that pull energy from the stable temperatures down in the earth up into the house. They leveraged both a shallow, coiled ground-source geothermal installation and borehole geothermal well. The system is able to pull much more useful energy from the borehole compared to the relatively shallow coiled installation, as you’d expect.
More recently, the team has added solar panels to the roof and continues to play with the home energy management system that continues to find more room to optimize the various oversized energy generation and storage systems in the house. More than anything, the Moonstone house serves as encouragement for us that a) renewable homes are possible, and that b) new technologies continue to come out at a historically unprecedented pace that should give us hope for a sustainable future for humans. The future is now.
To learn more about the Moonstone Project, head over to its online home which uses significantly less insulation than the house itself. That’s technology for ya. Of course, drop down below to watch the Fully Charged episode that dives into all the sticky goodness.
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