Ten Beautiful Solar-Powered Homes

By Matthew Wheeland - August 2, 2010

*Last Modified: June 9th. 2014

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Looking for a little home solar inspiration? If you’re considering getting solar panels and wondering how they’ll change the aesthetics of your home, take a look at these homes.

We’ve got everything here– modern and traditional architecture, large and tiny homes, from all over the U.S. and even Europe. Several of the homes use passive solar techniques to dramatically cut (or even eliminate) energy costs for heating and cooling, along with natural lighting to reduce the need for electricity. They’re all proof that, besides making you look like a good environmental citizen, home solar panels can actually add to the beauty (and value) of your home.

#1 – Activehouse, Austria

Solar Activehouse Austria

This Austrian home was designed to use minimal energy through “passive house” building strategies. By adding solar panels, the house goes beyond passive (no energy use) to active (actually generating more power than the family inside needs, and adding energy to the grid). Image: Activehouse.info.

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#2 – Marin County House, built in 1910

Marin County Solar House

This classic home overlooks the San Francisco Bay, and has every luxurious feature you could want– an infinity pool, a whirlpool in the master suite, a library– and solar hot water collectors on the roof. Proof that even when solar collectors (or panels) are visible from the front of a house, it can still look elegant and beautiful. Image: Russ Hamal, Community Action Marin.

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#3 – Malibu 5 Modern Beach House, Kanner Architects

Malibu Solar Modern Beachhouse by Kanner

This home is a good example of the fact that solar panels don’t necessarily have to be visible. The roof holds both home solar panels (PV) and solar hot water collectors. Set into a hillside in Malibu, California, the house has several other environmentally-friendly features: it’s made from green and recycled materials, and is designed to naturally heat and cool itself. Windows let in natural light and breezes. The house uses so little power that it contributes energy to the grid. Image: Kanner Architects.

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#4 – MK Glidehouse, Novato, CA

mkGlidehouse solar in Novato, CA

This is a prefab home, built using the most environmentally-friendly techniques in a factory. It was designed by architect Michele Kaufmann. Depending on the owner’s specific needs, the mkGlidehouse can earn a gold or platinum LEED rating, among the highest environmental honors for buildings. The homes are designed to use solar panels. Images: John Swain.

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#5 – Enertia Home, Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

Enertia Solar House in Blue Ridge Mountains, NC

Enertia homes use solid-wood walls because of their energy efficiency. The houses are designed to store heat during the daytime or summer and release it at night or during the winter, so that extra energy isn’t necessary for heating and cooling. Solar panels on the roof provide electricity. Image: Enertia Building Systems.

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#6 – Cornell University Solar Decathlon Home

Cornell Solar Decathlon Home

One of the finalists in the 2005 Solar Decathlon, this small home is designed to run on solar power alone. It’s just 800 square feet, with one bedroom, but integrates outdoor space to make the living area feel larger. It has several green features beyond solar panels, including radiant floors, rainwater reuse, and a permeable driveway. Images: Jeff Wolfram.

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