Etho Solar Decathlon: Building a Greener Tomorrow

Lucinda Wood
28th October 2013 in Know How

The Solar Decathlon started back in 2002 it has been hosted in several countries around the world; United States, Spain, China, and soon to be France. Several countries come together to compete and build energy efficient home for example: Egypt, US, China, Spain, England, Ireland, Australia, just to name a few.

Etho Team

For the 2013 Solar Decathlon Peking University in China and University of Illinois teamed up to build their Green home. Each of the homes are judged on ten different categories:
1. Energy Balance
2. Architecture
3. Market Appeal
4. Engineering
5. Communications
6. Solar Application
7. Comfort Zone
8. Hot Water
9. Appliances
10. Home Entertainment

They used several different pieces of hardware and software to make this home energy efficient  and smart. Loxone was used specifically for controlling the lights. They had prototype lights from Molex that magnetically attach to rails in the ceiling that were a large heat sync for the LED’s.


Eric Johnson and Dan Murray (students of University of Illinois) oversaw the Automation, Controls and Monitoring portion of the home shared with us how they used Loxone. “The rails were powered by PWM dimmers, the dimmers were powered by a bank of 24V PSUs, and they were controlled by the DMX extension. We used the normal EnOcean pushbutton switches and stuck with a pretty simple loxone config using dimmer blocks to map the switches to the dimmer channels. From the loxone config, From our server, which for the competition just ran on a unix based laptop, we opened a websocket with the miniserver and used that API to establish realtime control from our web-app.”

Dan and Eric

“During our tours (they were mostly in Chinese) our lighting demonstration in the dining area drew the most “ooohs” and “ahhs,” particularly when people saw us move the lights around, and also when we showed the control from a tablet.” ~Eric Johnson

The home itself was beautifully built. They utilize solar panels, wood flooring, large windows, greenery, and home automation to make this home a net-zero home. You can find out more about this project at