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Salford University builds ‘Energy House’ to measure efficiency

By Rob Hull on June 3, 2010

The University of Salford is preparing to build a traditional-style terrace house inside a three-storey sealed test chamber in order to carry out a huge range of tests to measure energy consumption.

The university released information about the ‘Energy House’ last week which is described as a ‘Coronation Street-style house’ using the original brickwork and roof as a pre-1920 terrace house. The test chamber the house will be constructed in will have a unique climate system which is capable of generating ranging rain, wind and solar conditions.

The university plans to devise different ways to improve the home’s efficiency by studying the different ways it consumes energy. The tests go beyond trialling different types of double glazing and insulation and high-efficiency appliances like boilers – a team of psychologists, health experts, sociologists, designers, engineers and scientists will be looking into devising more untraditional sustainable solutions. This includes exploring if the use of certain colours and wall coverings affects how we perceive temperature, whether smart meters showing the exact amount of energy you’re using at a given time changes consumer habits and if, in the future, a games console like the Nintendo Wii could be powered by physical energy generated by the user.

The house, due for completion next spring, is a response to the sustainability challenge presented by the UK’s ageing housing stock with pre-1920 properties being the least efficient in the country. Despite them only making up 15 per cent of UK homes, they actually account for 23 per cent of total notional CO2 emissions.

Professor Steve Donnelly, Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering & Environment, said: “We need to find ways to make these old-build properties more efficient as they will continue to house people for generations to come. But to cost-effectively retrofit old properties and make them as carbon-efficient as possible requires detailed and robust research.

“To work out how homes perform under different conditions, and the most effective ways of reducing energy consumption, requires replicating one in laboratory conditions. The unique cross-discipline nature of The Energy Hub also means that our academics, experts and specialists from a range of fields can access and interpret the data, and work together to find innovative solutions.”