It’s Solar OR Water… and UMD’s Combo of Both in Watershed

When most people think of an energy-efficient home, they think of the pieces. The low flow toilet, the compact fluorescent light bulbs, and of course the ever-popular recycling initiatives. It’s the small, individual things that make a house efficient, right?

That’s how Bridgett and I planned out our coverage of Maryland’s Watershed home in the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Of course they would have to use solar panels to heat the house (duh, this is why the competition is basically the “solar olympics”). Bridgett focused on how the team used the sun to create energy.

And along with solar, Maryland had a unique approach to using water to be more efficient.

The house features low flow utilities in the kitchen and bathroom:

The house also has 2 liquid desiccant waterfalls for high-efficiency humidity control:

Bridgett and I were thrilled! What an angle. These two little items would work separately to make this house the most efficient in the competition… or so we thought.

Yes, we were right about Maryland being the most efficient in the competition (they took 1st place in the Solar Decathlon!). Yet, it was because solar and water worked together.

Here are a few ways solar and water were integrated to take Maryland to the final victory and 100 full points in the energy balance competition.

  • Split-butterfly roof one side covered with solar panels, the other with a green roof. The solar panels gathered sun to heat the house, while the green roof monitored cooling effects and collected rainwater.
  • Constructed wetlands that filter  stormwater and grey water (household water with limited contaminants).
  • Solar thermal array fulfills all domestic hot water needs
  • The garden acts as “edible landscapes” that need both sun and water to grow
So, now when you think about making your home energy-efficient, think about the way systems can work together. In the end, you will be like Watershed: a winning team saving both the environment and money.
For more energy-efficient ideas check out and
All photos: courtesy of University of Maryland’s Watershed
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2 thoughts on “It’s Solar OR Water… and UMD’s Combo of Both in Watershed

  1. Hi Sara,

    Great work, but be sure to include your name at the bottom of the post in the future. I enjoyed your conversational tone and the photos you took are great. Make sure to give photo credits, even to yourself. I would consider a title with more search terms, like “How to Make Your Home Energy Efficient Like UMD’s Watershed.” That is probably the max length for a title, but it will return more search results than “a race to the end” because it is more specific. The tags you used and the hyperlinks are good.


    Melissa M

  2. Frank Sesno says:

    Nice blog. Would like to see more links, a bit more edge and opinion from you. Bullet points are cool…and informative. How about taking us into your journey of discovery a bit? What surprised you most, struck you most, changed your ideas about something? Blogs are a place to be both personal and informational. A good weave makes a great tapestry. This is where you can impress and engage people. Carry on!

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