SCU CCA Refract House US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon
The datalogger receives all of the information about energy and water consumption.
The datalogger receives all of the information about energy and water consumption.
This weather station provides information about the weather conditions outside the home.
technology  ::  controls and monitoring  ::


Refract House uses Lucid Design Group’s Building Dashboard® to monitor and display the home’s real time, and historical, energy and water consumption levels. The monitoring is meant to aid the homeowners into recognizing their consumption habits, such as how much hot water they consume while taking a shower, and then make energy and water conscious decisions.

Production vs. Consumption

The main goal of a solar home is to be carbon neutral, which means our home's energy usage does not contribute to global carbon emissions. The monitoring system provides this information, about the net energy of the home, as well as a breakdown of where energy is being consumed in the home. By understanding where energy is consumed, homeowners can adjust their lifestyles to consume less.

Energy Savings

The monitoring system also provides details on how much energy is being saved by Refract House’s unique thermal systems. The monitoring provides numbers on how much the thermal system is saving compared to a conventional home’s heating and cooling system as well as more detailed data involving how heat is being supplied to the home.

Weather Monitoring

The monitoring system includes a home weather system providing information on temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction, rainfall, and several other parameters. This system helps determine how efficiently the solar panels are producing electricity from the sun’s energy, as well as ties into the control system to close certain windows if it starts raining.

Since our weather station can measure rainfall intensity (rainfall per square foot), we can use this to approximate the total rainwater catchment that will be harvested in the reflecting pool.

Homeowner Interface

Building Dashboard® provides a system to easily view the monitoring data. The data is posted on a user friendly website that allows homeowners to select units of water and energy consumption that they best understand. The website lets one view the current home conditions as well as historical data, helping identify lifestyle trends and improvements. Monitoring data can also be accessed through the Refract House iPhone application.


The goal of our control system was to blend the different engineering systems in the home into one usable platform. With help from members of Santa Clara's 2007 Solar Decathlon team who have formed the company Valence Energy, we were able to bring each system together with the Cisco® Network Building Mediator. Valence worked long nights and weekends with us to allow users to control shades, windows, lights, and heating and cooling from one website and touch interface.