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How Science House Works

How the Building Works

Welcome to Science House! This 1,700-square-foot building is located in the museum's outdoor science park, the Big Back Yard.

Science House is not open to museum visitors. The building is home to the museum's Science House: A Resource Center for Educators, where Minnesota's science teachers gain access to the best in hands-on classroom science materials, consult with science education experts, and discuss education issues in a relaxed and creative environment.

Science House is both a vibrant, professional home for teachers and an 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. Since energy monitoring began in February 2004, Science House actually has been producing more energy than it uses on an annual basis.

The energy monitoring of Science House is performed by The Weidt Group with equipment installed and provided by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Download an Excel spreadsheet with the latest Science House data (updated periodically).

How Science House Works

Buildings account for about 35 percent of all energy consumption in the world. By bringing together energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, Science House will test the idea that even in Minnesota's climate, houses can be constructed to generate much, if not all, of their annual energy needs. Here is how Science House works:

  1. Science House's solar photovoltaic standing-seam metal roof generates electricity from sunlight.
  2. The direct current (DC) electricity from the solar roof feeds into inverters on an outside wall of Science House that convert the DC into alternating current (AC).
  3. Electricity from the inverters powers the Science House, including a ground-source heat pump.
  4. The heat pump circulates a non-toxic fluid through plastic tubes looped down four, 250-feet-deep wells.
  5. The heat pump extracts heat from the Earth to warm Science House in winter.
  6. The heat pump extracts heat from Science House and dissipates it into the Earth to cool Science House in summer.
  7. Energy-efficient windows allow for passive solar heating in winter and minimize the need for artificial lighting year-round.
  8. Energy-efficient lighting and lighting controls minimize the use of electricity to light Science House.
  9. Spray-in foam insulation in the walls and ceiling creates a building envelope with a high R-value and minimal uncontrolled air infiltration.
  10. Science House feeds electricity back to the Science Museum when the solar roof is generating more than Science House is consuming.
  11. Science House draws electricity from the Science Museum when Science House is consuming more than the solar roof is generating.
  12. The goal is that Science House produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis.

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To learn more about solar energy, go to the Minnesota Department of Commerce's solar energy information site.

Science House GraphScience House through the Seasons
Energy production at Science House changes through the seasons. Science Buzz looks at how phenology (the study of the changing seasons) relates to the changing energy consumption and creation of this new building.

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The Science Museum of Minnesota gratefully acknowledges the following for their support of Science House:

Supporters who provided general funding to Science House:

Supporters who provided targeted funding to Science House:

Contributions of goods and services to Science House:

Citizen funders of Science House:

Ruth Agar Vernon Arnold, Jr.
Bonnie Beckel and Joseph Hesla Ellen Brooks and Dave Hackett
Melissa Brown Dr. Susan L. Clarke
Russ W. Fischer Heather and Jeffrey Ilse
Ralph Jacobson Tom and Stephanie Koehler
Warren and Marion Lang Alice and David Langworthy
Deborah Pullin and Robert Spottswood Louise Quinn
Marvin Rothfusz David Stevens and Elizabeth Borg
David and Linda Therkelsen Richard and Marian Vandellen
Rosalie E. Wahl Timothy and Carol Wahl
Fremont A. Williams Frank and Raquel Wood