Living Lab hits 1,000 homes milestone

More than 1,000 households across the UK now live in a real-life laboratory, volunteering their homes to help innovators develop solutions to cut carbon emissions in our daily lives.

The Living Lab has been developed by the innovation agency Energy Systems Catapult as a real-world test environment, where innovators can rapidly design, market-test and launch cutting-edge energy products, services and business models.

Established in 2017 and spread across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Living Lab has a variety of tenures (owners, renters, etc), property types and family demographics.

Over 660 of the Living Lab households are in England, more than 300 in Scotland, almost 100 in Wales and the first 14 homes have recently been connected in Northern Ireland. The West Midlands and South East of England are the sub regions with the most homes, with 14% and 9% of the total respectively.

Where Living Lab homes are located across the UK

Where Living Lab homes are located across the UK

Homes are connected by a digital integration platform to the Catapult’s trial curators, ensuring the Living Lab is digitally open, interoperable and scalable. This allows innovations to be tested in real-world conditions alongside those existing mainstream technologies that households are slowing acquiring – such as smart meters and IoT devices.

Living Lab homes vary, with detached and semi-detached properties making up 29% and 28% respectively, 18% mid-terrace and 8% end of terrace. Around 7% are flats, 6% bungalows, with the remainder a mix of maisonettes, park homes and linked detached properties.

Some properties are equipped with over 10 smart and low carbon energy devices – including heat pumps, solar PV, electric vehicles and EV chargers, smart hot water tank, battery storage, smart heating controls and a smart meter – while many other homes have a standard gas boiler and no low carbon devices.

Over half the homes in the Living Lab have smart heating, with the majority (89%) equipped with a gas boiler and an increasing number (currently 11%) using heat pumps. A fifth of the homes generate their own power using solar PV, and 12% have an EV charge point installed.

Percentage proportion of Living Lab homes with different technology types

Percentage proportion of Living Lab homes with different technology types

The Living Lab also provides national capability to test and demonstrate market arrangements, policy and regulations with real consumers – as we move towards a Net Zero carbon future.

The Lab has recently formed part of a world-first energy innovation test and evaluation facility – the Whole Energy Systems Accelerator (WESA) – combining with PNDC’s unique power networks demonstration centre to enable innovators to run risk-free tests of home energy innovations and evaluate their impact on the electricity network.

Living Lab business lead, Rebecca Sweeney, said:

“It’s great to reach this milestone number of homes taking part in our Living Lab. We’re building a diverse community of residential properties of all shapes and sizes, and with different heating technologies installed, to give us a unique insight into our changing energy demands throughout the net zero transition.

“This insight into our evolving energy habits – and how consumers and the market respond to new technologies – will be crucial to encourage innovation and help us design products and services for the future energy system.”

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