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Blog Post 31 August 2022 Updated 13 June 2023

Energy efficiency: a long-term solution to the energy crisis

This blog was written in August 2022. From 1 July 2023, energy prices are being set by Ofgem’s price cap. Annual energy bills for a typical household will be around £2,074, down from £2,500. Read more here.


By Louise Tweddell

Families up and down the country will feel the effects of the new energy price cap from October.

The UK Government is providing a package of support to help – including a £400 discount on energy bills over six months. But this is only a short-term fix. 

As we said in our response to Ofgem’s move to review the price cap quarterly, the current energy crisis is an ongoing problem that needs long-term solutions to address the underlying issues. 

What do some of these long-term solutions look like? Here are some fantastic examples that my team discovered on our recent visit to Manchester.

Testing, testing, testing

Down at their Energy House on ‘Joule Terrace’, Salford University’s experts told us all about the innovative work they’re doing to address, test and learn from the products and services that we’ll need as we move towards lowering energy bills and reducing carbon emissions.

Their tiny Victorian two-bed terrace was originally fitted with an old gas boiler and traditional ‘wet’ heating system. It has an environmental chamber where the team can accurately assess new energy efficient retrofit technologies.

Peering through its windows, and looking out across its external red bricked wall, you can see just some of the 200+ sensors that are collecting data on heat, humidity, and everything in between.

The team has the power to dial down the external temperature to -12°C and up to 30°C. They can make it rain or snow, simulate wind and even order a side of sunshine. It can be furnished to replicate a real house and small heaters are used to replicate the heat of human bodies.

Since the test property was built 10 years ago, the team has worked with a range of commercial companies to test a variety of products, including curtains, window covers and insulation. Even one of our verified brandmark products, Thermocill, was tested there.  

Right now, Energy House has been kitted out with more modern windows and a new front door. They’ve swapped the combi boiler for a heat pump, and they’ll be reporting on the outcome in a few months’ time.  

Speeding up the process

Next up, we moved across the site to Barratt Home’s Z house, a real home of the future and one that all of us who visited would be proud to call home.

Every last environmental detail has been considered. Right down to building a hedgehog highway. 

It goes beyond the UK Government’s Future Homes Standard, which will need to be applied across all new homes in England by 2025.

Working with Salford University, and around 40 other partners, Barratt aims to show what could be achievable on large scale building sites in the future.

As you’d expect, it’s fitted with an air source heat pump, electric vehicle (EV) charging points, solar panels and battery storage.

But it also has overhead infrared panels that provide instant zero carbon heat, new air powered showers, and a fridge with regulated humidity that leads to 60% less food waste.

It’s built from closed panel timber frames with highly insulated cladding. Even the brickwork is designed to cut carbon and reduce build time to just two weeks, coming in prefabricated panels that are ready to install.

Soon, real humans will move in, and the team will test out what it’s really like to live there.

The best till last

The final leg of the tour was saved to showcase Energy House 2.0. Think ‘Joule Terrace’ on steroids.

This brand new, 750-square-metre, state-of-the-art, £16 million test and research facility opened in February and is being part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.  

The new technology means that results that would normally need years of testing in the field can now be obtained in weeks.  It’s impressive, and no surprise Salford is keen to show it off.

Energy House 2.0 has two enormous environmental chambers. Here, the temperature range is even bigger, between -20˚C to 40˚C, and weather conditions can be simulated to match.

Salford’s experts can now test and replicate conditions experienced right across the world. They can work with colleagues internationally and help to solve global challenges, including stress testing shelters for people experiencing homelessness or disaster situations. 

The temperature was certainly dialled down low the day of our visit, as we listened and shivered away in our summer clothes.

Crucially, this facility will influence thinking on how we can most effectively decarbonise all of our buildings to achieve net zero by 2050.

Right now, one of the chambers is testing a unique collaboration between some of the UKs major house builders, Barratt Developments, Saint-Gobain, Bellway Homes and Muse Developments.

As we looked on from the side-lines, we saw two houses of the not-so-distant future taking shape, complete with driveways.  

A glimmer of hope

So while it seems like the UK’s sole focus is currently about the here and now, our trip to Salford provided a good opportunity to reflect on some of the long-term solutions that are needed to address this energy crisis.

It’s reassuring to know that others also thinking long-term, and to see real examples of what could be achieved, particularly with collaboration across the academic and private sectors.

Now, we just need the political will to continue to keep pace.

Last updated: 13 June 2023