Research shows more than half of the energy we use at home comes from heating and air conditioning which can drive up power bills in a hurry. But across the pond in the UK, engineers are busy building homes of the future inside a climate lab to help cut costs and save the environment.

“There’s only one of these in the world,” says Richard Fitton, Professor of Building Performance at University of Salford in England. The goal at Energy House 2.0 is to punish properties on the outside with harsh conditions while keeping things comfortable inside. Fitton says it’s important to find out, “Do these buildings work today under very deep winter conditions, very hot summer conditions and everywhere in between?”

Everything about the project at Salford University is state of the art. There’s clever climate control. “If it gets over a certain temperature, the curtains will shut, and the ventilation will kick in,” explains Oliver Novakovic, Technical and Innovation Director at Barratt Developments – one of the largest residential property development companies in the UK. The homes showcase mirrors that double as infrared heaters and lighter weight walls that are more energy efficient. “Traditionally in the UK, this wall would be about two foot wide. But we’ve halved the amount of room you’re going to take, but actually the insulation level is still the same,” says Novakovic.

For months, wild weather and extreme temperatures batter the homes while hundreds of sensors keep tabs on heat loss from the windows to the walls and doors to floors. “We have to change the way that we build our homes, make it far more efficient in terms of carbon energy, cost effectiveness to run,” says Fitton.

Researchers are also looking at creative ways to raise the temperature but not your electric bill. “Adding things like air source heat pumps, infrared heating – under very controlled conditions so that hopefully our results can have significant impacts,” Fitton says. A significant impact on the planet – and your wallet.

Energy House engineers say inside that research warehouse they can recreate snow, rain, gale-force winds, and the movement of the sun in temperatures ranging from 4 below zero up to 104 degrees.