Science House through the seasons

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Science House data

Download an Excel spreadsheet with the latest Science House data (updated weekly).

The Science House is a 1,476-square-foot environmental demonstration building in the museum's Big Back Yard. Science House is not only a versatile program space but a true environmental experiment because it is designed to operate as a zero-emissions building (ZEB). ZEBs produce all of their energy needs on an annual basis. Because of this design, the Science House gives us a perfect opportunity to look at the seasons.

The cycle of solar energy

Science House generates its own electricity from the sun using a photovoltiac film applied to its metal roof. But as the seasons cycle, so does the amount of sun we see. This causes the building's production of electricity from sunlight to cycle up and down.

Hot, cold, hot, cold

One of the most noticeable changes between seasons is the air temperature. To keep the Science House comfortable year round, we use a heat pump to extract heat from the ground to warm the building in the winter and to take heat out of the building and dissipate it into the ground in the summer.



Examine the graph

By studying the various parts of this graph you can find out lots of interesting things about energy use at Science House through the seasons. Try and answer these questions.

  • When does solar production outpace electricity use?
  • Does this have anything to do with the equinox?
  • What seasons require the most air conditioning? Heating?
  • When is equipment use highest? Why?
  • How does this information relate to our First day of Spring story?

Post your answers to these questions below.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Kathy's picture
Kathy says:

I am wondering which company supplied the photovoltiac film applied to its metal roof. Thanks!\r\nkathy

posted on Mon, 02/13/2006 - 10:58pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The trade name on the product is Uni-Solar.

posted on Tue, 02/14/2006 - 12:06pm
Jay O's picture
Jay O says:

Has the Science House met its goal of being a ZEB? What do the numbers show on total energy used vs. total energy produced? It also looks like there was a lot more equipment used in 2005 compared to 2004. What accounts for this difference?

posted on Wed, 03/01/2006 - 9:52am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

A zero-emissions building (ZEB) seeks to generate as much energy as it uses on an annual basis. The Museum now has two years of monitoring data for Science House. In each year, the building actually generated more energy than it consumed, so Science House has met its goal of being a ZEB. Yes, energy usage by equipment has increased due to growing programmatic needs. The building's office has a dorm refrigerator and a small freezer (which are only plugged and running when the Big Back Yard is open). A card reader that provides keyless access to the building was installed in early 2005 and is an energy load year around.

posted on Wed, 03/01/2006 - 5:37pm
Richard's picture
Richard says:

How does the initial cost of the Science House compare to a conventionally built and heated/cooled home of equal square footage, land cost excluded? It would appear that the (4) 250' deep wells for the heatpump, for one thing, would be part of a large initial investment that would be difficult, if not impossible for a normal homeowner to recoup.

posted on Sun, 07/16/2006 - 6:13pm
Patrick Hamilton's picture
Patrick Hamilton says:

Yes, Science House cost considerably more than a conventionally built home of comparable size. The biggest reasons were:

1) A lot of architectural and engineering design and modeling went into Science House to ensure that it reached its goal of being a zero-emissions building. The vast majority of houses are not designed by architects nor undergo modeling efforts to maximize their energy efficiency. Now that the research and design work have been conducted, an interested party could purchase the plans for Science House (the design is the intellectual property of the architects) for a fraction of what was originally spent to figure out the specifications of the building.

2) Very poor soil conditions due to past industrial and commercial activities significantly added to the cost of designing and constructing Science House. Below Science House sits 40 feet of accumulated debris from the casual environmental practices of the 19th and 20th centuries. Although Science House is a small building, the unstable ground required that pilings be driven to bedrock and that grade beams be poured to support the building. The same building constructed in a typical suburban division would easily cost 20 to 25 percent less.

3) The poor soil conditions also greatly increased the cost of the loop field for the ground-source heating and cooling system. The loop field had to go 250 feet down through bedrock because heat exchange calculations could not be performed on the very heterogeneous debris directly beneath Science House. A much less costly horizontal loop field would be standard in a typical suburban residential development.

4) Science House sits right at the elevation of the maximum crest of the 1965 Mississippi River flood – the highest flood recorded to date in St. Paul. It was decided during the design of Science House that the potential for future flooding should be taken into consideration so that extreme measures would not have to be taken to protect the building in the event of a major flood. An 18-inch high concrete kneewall was built into the perimeter of the building and many design changes were made to the interior so that during a flood the doorways could be sandbagged and the building then would serve as its own floodwall. And if water did enter the building, damage would be minimal because the structure was design to take up to eighteen inches of water. These flood contingencies were expensive and would not need to be implemented in a typical suburban residential development.

posted on Tue, 07/18/2006 - 12:48pm
Architects India's picture

Science House - True architectural marvel of our time.... The design very much should be the IPR of the Architects...

posted on Fri, 09/07/2007 - 5:21am
Bemidji's picture
Bemidji says:

This is not really a replie I just felt like typing. Do you like winter? I do. I love all the snow we got this year. Some times if we have enough snow we slide off our shed. what were you talking about in the artical anyway? I can't belive you expect people to read all that to hard to think about science stuff. Happy Holidays from Bemidji wich is not on any of your maps.

posted on Sun, 12/09/2007 - 1:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Is it possible to purchase the plans for the Science House? If so,from whom,and do you have an idea of how much it would then cost to build in a suburb or out in the country?(Without the special soil and flood,planning considerations) It's my dream to have a solar or wind powered home. Do you have any idea how much a windpowered home would cost? Or will that ever be a viable alternative energy source for home or country farm or estate do you think? Thank you for your great explanation of the Science House and Backyard on your site!I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

posted on Sat, 07/29/2006 - 9:57pm
Adele's picture
Adele says:

Almost ten years ago I worked on an exhibit about windpower for the Museum. At that time we highlighted a family, the Lilyerds, who got all of their home power from wind or sun. They lived in St. Paul right off of Lexington Ave. So in answer to one of your questions...SURE. It (solar and wind together) is a viable alternative energy source. One caveat that the Lilyerds and anyone else will tell order to use renewables as your sole source, you'll have to get a good handle on consumption.

Okay, a couple of good sources if you are thinking about renewables. First, every June there is an incredible "Energy and Susatinable Living Fair" near Amherst Wisconsin. Its a three-day event where lots of people gather to learn and teach about all sorts of ways to live sustainably. There are MANY practical solutions offered and people from many walks of life present their challenges and their solutions.

Second, I've heard that the Minnesota State Fair is going to have a whole area devoted to sustainable living. I've heard that it will be in the Progress Center Building. Check it out.

Third, "google" renewable energy in Minnesota. I know that Jerry Lilyerd has a website for his company and there are others, too.

Lastly, go get an ice cream cone at Izzy's on Marshall Ave, in St. Paul or a coffee at Old Man River Cafe on Smith Ave. They are two businesses who have installed "community-bought" solar panels (a bunch of folks pool their resources to put up some solar).

That's it for now.

posted on Wed, 08/02/2006 - 12:39pm
Patrick Hamilton's picture
Patrick Hamilton says:

Yes, it is possible to purchase the plans for Science House but I think that the better approach would be to work with the architects (Barbour & LaDouceur Design Group, 612-339-5093) who designed Science House to adapt the building design to fit your needs and wants.

I decided to call the building “Science House” because it is on the scale of a small house and I wanted a name that had some inherent intimacy to it and yet also conveyed the science research and education mission of the Science Museum. The building, however, was not designed to function as a residential structure so it would need some redesign to meet those needs.

It is viable to power a house with wind power, but I do not know how much it would cost to do so because there are several variables to consider. For example, how energy efficient might you be able to make your home? The more efficient the house, the less capital in general you would need to invest in wind-generating capacity. Where might you site your house and what is the wind energy resource in that area? The better the wind resource, the more energy you will be able to generate from a wind turbine. Also, do you imagine your house being tied into an existing power grid or being a completely free-standing, independent energy system? Being off-grid requires the need for battery storage to ensure that you have access to electricity at times when the wind is not blowing. Being tied into the grid relieves you of the need for battery storage because you always have access to the grid if wind power is not available to support your energy needs.

Science House, by the way, does not utilize battery storage. It has an electric meter that can scroll forward and backward. When it is producing more electricity than it is using, the electric meter scrolls backwards and Science House feeds its excess current back to the Museum which in turn draws a little less off of the electrical grid than it otherwise would. When it is using more electricity than it is generating, Science House draws the current it needs from the Museum which in turn draws a little more off of the grid that it otherwise would. Over the course of a year, Science House actually produces more electricity than it uses.

Patrick Hamilton
Science House project director

posted on Tue, 08/15/2006 - 3:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Thu, 10/19/2006 - 12:13pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Anonymous says:

in reply to some ones comment about running out of cant happen. electricty(excuse my spelling) is never lost of created its just transfered theres always the same ammount of protons and nutrons and every other tron you can think of we can stop proucding electricty but theres always the same ammount if im wrong about this email me at [email protected]

posted on Sat, 05/03/2008 - 9:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

great website!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Fri, 10/27/2006 - 9:45am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Thats right it is a good web site!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Tue, 11/20/2007 - 2:26pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i dont like it . its weird and i dont even kno what weird is

posted on Tue, 04/29/2008 - 9:22am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

This is such an amazing place. Thank you so much for making it available to us. We came here as a school trip and our forgien exchange students were just in awe over this place. It's so incrediby amazing to learn and be able to see and touch the wonders of the world. I'd also like to thank the staff for doing such a great job helping us and explaining this to us. This was such a great expirience!!

Thank you again-
Melissa Sherry
Lake Holcombe, Wisconsin

posted on Fri, 11/03/2006 - 12:12pm
Alyssa's picture
Alyssa says:

how come people use so much energy and not pay too much? Also, why do people liter in minneapolis so much even though there are a lot of trash cans in downtown minneapolis?
My 8th grade class was trying to see what we can do for the enviornment in the spring can I get some ideas from you? Thanx I will mean a lot to me if you gave me some ideas!

Alyssa 11-22-06

(-:alyssa was here:-)

posted on Wed, 11/22/2006 - 4:35pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wow... this is amazing to see an actual chart of how much power we use and on what... thank you

posted on Fri, 11/24/2006 - 7:05pm
Anonomus's picture
Anonomus says:

What are the most common electricities that costs a lot of money? Do you know what green nano technology is?

posted on Sun, 12/03/2006 - 12:10pm
COLLIN's picture
COLLIN says:

I wish I used that much solar energy - then my life would be much easier................. I wouldn't have to pay high energy bills. It would also be better for the environment!!!

posted on Sat, 01/13/2007 - 3:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I'm curious - What is the maximum capacity rating of the solar panels on the roof? It looks like on average, they have been generating ~9000 kWh of energy annually. If they ran at full capacity (i.e. if they were in full sun 24 hours/day 364 days out of the year) how much energy would they produce?

posted on Tue, 03/27/2007 - 4:11pm
John Bailey's picture

maybe too late but the answer is 8.8 kW x 8760 hours/yr =77088 kWhs/yr

posted on Wed, 05/23/2007 - 3:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think that this is a great way to teach kids that all that we use is not going to come back and that we need to save more then use the things we have. All I know is that if we keep waseting our sources that we will soon have to go without. Sometimes I think that the next day I will not have any light left to see.

posted on Fri, 04/06/2007 - 10:43am
gabby's picture
gabby says:


posted on Sat, 06/23/2007 - 3:04pm
max's picture
max says:

Yes gabby I agree with u

It is very cool!

posted on Tue, 06/26/2007 - 11:47am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it is very neat and cool id like to come back soon!

posted on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 2:50pm
Jahreya's picture
Jahreya says:

That is so totally AWESOME!

posted on Mon, 07/02/2007 - 12:16pm
Deimos's picture
Deimos says:

Thank you for showing people that solar powered, energy efficient houses are not just make believe, or only available in the far flung future. The Science House is a great idea.

posted on Thu, 08/02/2007 - 12:39pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

EXCLENT WORK !!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Tue, 08/14/2007 - 3:51pm
lydia's picture
lydia says:

great job

posted on Wed, 08/29/2007 - 2:09pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Interesting.... very interesting.....

posted on Sun, 09/02/2007 - 2:16pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

this is a very good informational page!

posted on Mon, 09/03/2007 - 11:45am
Anonymous/katie's picture
Anonymous/katie says:

yes,i agree.

posted on Sat, 02/16/2008 - 11:58am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

very very very informational!!

posted on Sun, 09/09/2007 - 3:31pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

thanks for all the information!

posted on Tue, 11/06/2007 - 4:22pm
Hannah's picture
Hannah says:

What is the noon altitude for spring summer fall and winter? does anybody know? im doing science homework! lol!

posted on Sun, 11/18/2007 - 4:24pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I want to know where the info on this page is gotten from.

posted on Sun, 11/25/2007 - 2:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

this is very interesting!!!

posted on Sun, 11/25/2007 - 4:07pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

very interesting

Thanks for the info

posted on Sat, 01/05/2008 - 11:38am
Ariel D-M's picture
Ariel D-M says:

Why does it use so much energy to heat water at the one point in the summer?

posted on Fri, 01/11/2008 - 4:40pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

It takes 4.184J of energy to heat 1 gram of water 1 degree at any time during the year.

posted on Fri, 01/11/2008 - 6:15pm
jeanette's picture
jeanette says:

that is awsome!

posted on Sat, 03/29/2008 - 12:27pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

why do people have to use so much engery?

posted on Sat, 03/29/2008 - 2:50pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Hi, I never leanrned so much about science in one place and i think that this place is very interesting and I like it.

posted on Sat, 04/19/2008 - 9:57am
JOHNNY BOB's picture


posted on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 10:27am
lola jackson's picture
lola jackson says:

Awsome reseach but you need more, and your really bad at minnigolfing

posted on Fri, 03/13/2009 - 1:59pm
iowaboy's picture
iowaboy says:

what does mini golf have to do with this article? very little.

i did like mention of how there are many trash cans in downtown minneapolis and how many people STILL don't use them. the answer: they just don't CARE'. since they personally don't have to clean it up. either that or they're just plain too lazy to use trash cans.

although, sadly, that phenomenon isn't just limited to minneapolis. i've traveled enough to know litter is a big problem ANYWHERE- big cities and small towns as well.

posted on Fri, 03/13/2009 - 2:57pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Science House, which is the subject of the original post here, is out in the museum's Big Back Yard, where there is also a mini golf course designed to teach about earth surface dynamics.

I'm not sure what either Science House (and/or its energy use) or mini golf have to do with littering...

posted on Fri, 03/13/2009 - 4:11pm
Anni and Ophelia's picture
Anni and Ophelia says:

My mom just spotted a wolf about a mile from our cabin on lake vermillion at Niles bay. She saw a deer let then about 5 minutes later she saw the wolf. It was right by the road we didn't know if it was a wolf kill or feeding on road kill. It sounded pretty cool anyway.

posted on Sat, 05/30/2009 - 8:50am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Awesome peoples! Rock on dudes! I totaly loved this thingymobober(whatever) and I so want to get it for my own house!(not that I would steel it)

posted on Mon, 06/01/2009 - 11:41am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

that graph is really interesting. i've never seen anything like that before. some of the data was pretty much expected though.

posted on Thu, 07/09/2009 - 6:40pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

hi this was a very interesting page on the science house energy usuage

posted on Sat, 07/25/2009 - 2:23pm
claymo's picture
claymo says:

I think that solar should be replaced by wind power in the Dakota area. But solar should still go on in the desert area of the U.S.

posted on Sun, 09/13/2009 - 12:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

this is such a good site!

posted on Fri, 09/18/2009 - 12:48pm
Angela's picture
Angela says:

My son took a class at the Science Museum yesterday, and his instructor indicated that the Science House has a "membership" available to school districts whereby the instructors can borrow various science equipment, including microscopes, slides with samples, etc. Is this the right Science House? If so, is a similar "membership" available to home educators? The instructor seemed to think so, but I haven't been able to find information supporting any of this online.

posted on Sat, 10/31/2009 - 8:26am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

is all this energy common or suprising?

posted on Thu, 03/17/2011 - 2:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Is there any way to see the leed check list for this building?

posted on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 2:01pm

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