Zero Energy HVAC

This project explores a method to heat and cool a tiny home in a way that requires no energy input, making it ideal for off-grid settings.

Our Team

Meet the people behind our project!

Vince Headshot

Vince Bugni

cad jockey

I’m an aspiring design engineer from Portland. I love to ride bikes and ski. I want to use my degree and my voice to make the world a better place.

Sean Paddy

Panel Mover

I’m Sean and I love making stuff. I hope to blend my creative passion and technical knowledge into a fulfilling career- one where I can make a lot of stuff. 

Abby Jones

heat exchanger

I am originally from Seattle, WA and am in love with forests and mountains. I hope to aid the combat of the climate crisis through sustainable building design. 

Cam Gross

Handyman Cam

I am a 4th year Mechanical Engineering Student from Seattle, WA. I enjoy music and the outdoors.


We would like to acknowledge our Project Advisor, Professor Sarah Harding, for providing our team with encouragement and guidance. An additional thank you goes out to CPConnect for funding out project’s verification prototype.

Our Project Video

Problem Statement

The independent and universally conscious homebuyer needs the option to purchase an inspiring, low-footprint, and self-sustaining homebase to reduce the financial and environmental costs of current home ownership.

Key Design Criteria

We targeted specific desires from our customer base to place design emphasis:

  • Small Footprint

  • System-Level Efficiency

  • Simple Mechanics

  • Low Cost

Concept Ideation

Our detailed ideation process saw many different ideas. Here are some of our favorites:

Design Concept

We synthesized the best components from our ideation sessions to create a concept that would best fit our problem identification.

Key Features:

  • Roof Pond System
  • Rainwater Collection, Filtration, and Storage
  • Photovoltaic Panels for Electricity Generation
  • Sliding Insulation Panels

At this point in the project, our sponsor and architect was no longer available to work on this project due to unforeseen circumstances. Unable to complete the full size project, we decided to build a model tiny home instead. Below this references the model tiny home instead of the full-scale model.

Final Design

We iterated between CAD models and prototyping to deliver our final, scaled-down model.

Key Features:

  • Thermal mass of water to transfer heat in and out of the building
  • Sliding insulation panels to manually control the rate of heat transfer
  • Low-slope roof to limit dead loads on roof
  • Modular system capable of adapting to different sized builds

Analysis & Testing

To test the tiny home, an Elitech digital thermometer was used. The thermometer had two attachments and could record data over periods of days at a time. Above, you can see one thermometer probe inside the tiny home, the other was placed in the water on the roof as can be shown below

Final Results

Testing over four days, keeping the insulation panels on the water during the day and off at night. This shows how the roof pond keeps the home cool.

Testing over four days, keeping the insulation panels off during the day and on at night. This shows how the roof pond will heat the home with an opposite panel sequence.

Conclusions & Recommendations

If you want to heat and cool a home without using energy, a roof pond is the way to go!

We were able to verify that a tiny home with a roof pond HVAC would work as a full scale model. With improved water sealing, envelope sealing, and better regulation of the insulation panels, the tiny home should stay within a comfortable living temperature. We do recommend for the future to seal the water with a dark colored material to absorb as much radiation as possible as well as using a material with a lower heat conductivity than sheet metal to cover the insulation panels. We are fans of roof pond HVAC!

Project Photos

Vince and Sean test fitment of an insulation panel
Cam and Vince with the tiny home frame
Sean testing the structural integrity of steel
Cam and Abby adding insulation to the floor
Sean standing in the tiny home with walls only, before roof was installed
Cam stapling down the roof pond liner
Having fun putting on bearings
Mid roof pond construction
Tiny home all painted and put together
Closed insulation panels (when you want cooler inside temperatures)
Open insulation panels (when you want warmer inside temperatures)
Crank to move insulation panels

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