The laboratory that experiments with the climate to improve energy efficiency

The thermometer plummets below freezing and a blizzard of snow falls on two newly built houses in a laboratory in the north of England. A test designed to test energy efficiency and rationalize consumption.

Thanks to state-of-the-art heating and insulation technology, both homes remain cozy and warm.

They are the illustration of Energy House 2.0, a scientific experiment designed to help builders of the world reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.

The project, in a megalab on the University of Salford campus near central Manchester, opened in January.

There, and from a control center, rain, wind, sun and snow are recreated in a range of temperatures ranging from -20ºC to 40ºC.

replicated weather

"What we have tried to achieve here is to replicate the climatic conditions experienced by about 95% of the populated part of the Earth."Professor Will Swan, head of the energy house labs at the university, told AFP.

The site includes two houses that can simultaneously experience different climates, and will test house types from around the world. "to understand how to offer homes with net zero emissions and energy efficiency"he added.

The two houses, typically British and built by firms with operations in the United Kingdom, will remain for a few years.

Subsequently, other builders will be able to rent the space to publicize their properties.

The first house was built by the British property company Barratt Developments and the French materials giant Saint-Gobain.

It features ornamental bricks on a framework of wood paneling and insulation and solar panels on the roof.

Scientists examine the efficiency of various heating systems, such as air source heat pumps.

In the living room, a hot water loop runs along the bottom of the walls, with additional heat coming from infrared technology in the trim and wall panel.

The mirrors also serve as infrared heaters, and numerous sensors monitor which rooms are in use.

Residents will be able to control the technology with a system similar to Amazon’s Alexa interface, activated by voice.

Builders estimate that with this technology, energy bills will be a quarter of those of the average UK home.

With the high prices of electricity and gas, such reductions would be very important for consumers.

They would also make a major contribution to Britain’s effort to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to combat climate change.

A 2019 parliamentary report found that 17% of emissions from heating in real estate comes from homes, making its contribution similar to that of all gasoline and diesel vehicles circulating in the United Kingdom.

Like Alexa

"One of the technologies that we are testing in this house is almost like a management system for a residential building."said Tom Cox, Saint-Gobain’s UK technical director.

"It’s almost like the Alexa of home energy systems, which can be automated to whatever the occupant wants.".

Scientists and companies will no longer have to wait for extreme temperature changes.

"We can test a whole year of weather conditions in one week"added Cox.

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