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Nineteen collegiate teams are in a tough competition to see who can design, build and operate the most energy efficient and affordable home of the future.

From solar technology, to sustainable building materials, to futuristic heating and cooling systems, these teams are using the latest innovations from companies across the globe, while pushing the envelope of energy efficiency with their own new ideas.

The homes are fully built and decorated, and the student teams are performing all kinds of tasks within the homes, from washing clothes to boiling water; whichever team does it all best wins.

(Watch more: Peak inside the homes of the future)

The competition, which is called the Solar Decathlon, started in 2002, occurring biannually in Washington, D.C. This year, the Department of Energy-sponsored event moved to Irvine, Calif., to bring its homes to a wider audience. Irvine is the perfect place, as new construction is booming again after a lull during the housing recession. A big emphasis in this year's competition is affordability.

The home builders are watching, especially Lennar, which has a major development going on near the site of this year's competition. Lennar is building homes with solar standard.

Here are some highlights of this year's decathlon.

By CNBC's Diana Olick; follow her on Twitter at @Diana_Olick.
CNBC's Harriet Taylor, Stephanie Dhue, and Gennine Uliasz contributed to this slideshow.
Posted 11 Oct. 2013

Source: Department of Energy | Flickr