According to the Government, the performance of Ireland’s building stock is one of the greatest energy efficiency challenges facing the country and the reason why there has been so much focus on the home retrofit space of late. As well as reducing our national demand on imported fuels, retrofit initiatives can help homeowners lower their energy bills and enjoy warmer and healthier homes.
With every new clean-energy initiative, there are many new questions and perceptions. Consumer research shows that Irish homeowners are still unsure of how to retrofit their home, who they should trust to do it and most importantly, if it really offers value for money.
For every homeowner and every house, there is a different answer to each question. Right down to the plumbing, everyone’s home is different. Every homeowner is also different. They define value for money differently, have different expectations, occupancy levels and appetites for new technology.
What the SuperHomes project – spearheaded by the Tipperary Energy Agency- attempts to do is to define for the homeowner what works are suitable for them in their home, and how best to achieve these goals.
Why retrofit your home?
- Poor insulation. Most Irish homes have some shortcomings with regard to insulation levels, whether that is an attic or wall that was never insulated or a flat or sloped roof section that the current domestic grants don’t cover.
SuperHomes suggested solution: Apply a blower door test to identify hidden leaks and have a ‘fix the obvious defect’ approach where we look at window sealants and at ceiling and wall for penetrations around wires and pipes.
- Poor ventilation. We live in poorly ventilated homes, made worse by increasing airtightness. SuperHomes suggested solution:A controlled ventilation system ensures that moisture does not build up within the dwelling and stops mould growth. If the home is ventilated adequately, there is little need for window opening to purge stale air. This allows the interior temperature to remain constant, and remain at a comfort level set by the homeowner.
- Removal of fossil fuelled boilers. Across Europe, heat pumps are replacing fossil fuel boilers and providing clean and affordable energy. The average cost of heating a home with a well-designed and commissioned heat pump with night rate and direct debit discounts can be as low as 3c/kWh, compared with 7-9c/kWh for an oil or gas boiler.
So what does an expert retrofit entail:
- An expert audit of each house
- A detailed proposal outlining the most cost effective measures for the homeowner to take
- Design of a heat pump system
- Design of a high indoor air quality ventilation system
Advantages of Near Zero Energy Homes
This package of retrofit measures – offered by SuperHomes - decreases energy use in most homes by up to 80%, primary energy use by 70% and costs by about 65%. For the community and country, the replacement of fossil heating with heat pumps can significantly improve air quality, reduce CO2 emissions and decrease climate related fines post 2020.
Following a retrofit, the user can set their heating at a constant temperature of 18 to 20 degrees all year long, without worrying about additional heating costs. In addition, as the home is ventilated by a series of low energy fans, there is no need to open windows to get rid of stale air, resulting in warmer temperatures and lower energy consumption.
Post retrofit, the additional electricity use for most homes is between 3000 kWh for a small home and 6000 kWh for a large home. With around 50% night rate savings, this amounts to approximately €350 to €700 per annum, which is more than offset by savings on other energy bills.
The typical upfront cost of retrofit works at the lower end of the scale is around €25,000, and €45,000 where external insulation and windows are required. A grant of 35% up to €10,000 is now available to offset the cost of these works.
The payback period for such an investment is between seven and twelve years. For most homeowners, the real driver is the transformation of comfort levels and environmental benefits. There can also be benefits to the bottom line with recent ESRI research showing that a house with a higher-end efficiency rating can today fetch almost 10 per cent more than a comparable property with a low BER.
Paul Kenny is the Chief Executive Officer of Tipperary Energy Agency. He has been with the agency since 2006 and is involved with both renewable energy (wind and bio-energy) and energy efficiency projects.
SuperHomes is open for new applicants now, with the aim of having the retrofitting works carried out over the summer months. To apply, review case studies and understand more information please visit www.superhomes.ie. Superhomes is an Initiative of the Tipperary Energy Agency and is co-financed by SEAI’s better energy program and supported by Electric Ireland.