Smart and ‘heroic’ ways to cut the home heating bills

Irish homes emit 60% more carbon than the European average, the worst in the EU, with the country’s over-reliance on coal, peat, and oil partly blamed for the figures, writes Ruth Dorris.

Energy use here is mostly for room-heating and water-heating, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) report.

As countries marked Earth Day yesterday, we look at two Irish companies that offer households simple, low-cost solutions for reducing their carbon emissions and making savings on their energy bills.

Heat Hero is an innovative solution to sluggish solid-fuel heating systems. It boosts their performance by 30%.

Art McArdle, who developed the system, estimates that 300,000 houses in Ireland use fossil fuels, such as coal and turf, as the main source of heating and cooking.

He says that while solid fuel is very efficient, weak heating systems can reduce the efficiency by almost a third.

A plumber by trade, Mr McArdle began investigating solutions to make solid-fuel systems more efficient when he built his own house, six years ago.

Heat Hero is a patented product. It creates pressure and strong circulation in an open-vented heating system, allowing any solid-fuel boiler to improve its performance, he says.

And they don’t have to burn as much coal or turf, and they can get away with burning sticks, which is far cleaner. Heat Hero costs €280, plus the plumber’s charge for installation, which Mr McArdle says will be paid back in one year.

“What we’ve done is we have recognised the flaw in heating systems, and Heat Hero fixes it for good.”

Launched in late 2015, by Mr McArdle and his wife, Adrienne, Heat Hero won the SEAI’s Best Innovative Product award in 2016.

The product is available in 250 hardware stores around Ireland and is recommended by Waterford Stanley and Blacksmith Stoves. In the UK, Heat Hero is listed on the website of its solid-fuel regulatory body. The next step

for the McArdles is to expand into the European market and into the US.

While improving the efficiency of heating systems will improve carbon emissions figures, another solution is for homes to better-manage and monitor their energy consumption.

This is where Smartzone comes in. It seamlessly connects all the devices in the home, and works with an app to monitor and control heating, security, and lighting.

Using the Smartzone app, householders can control their home-heating and hot water via their phone, thereby saving up to €300 on energy bills, says Justin McInerney, founder and CEO of Accuflow, which makes Smartzone.

The Smartzone system divides the home into three zones, so each zone - downstairs, upstairs, and hot water - can be controlled separately from the app.

Most homes have no heating controls, with heating operated by pushing a button to turn it on and off.

Smartzone, which has partnered with, allows heating to be timed and temperature-controlled.

The SEAI offers a grant of €700 to householders to upgrade their heating systems. Smartzone will submit the paperwork for the customer, leaving €249 to be paid for installing the system.

For the energy-only system, a yearly service charge of €59 applies, while householders who want the complete system, including 24-7 monitored security, pay a monthly charge of €29.99.

“It tells you how much energy you’re consuming; it helps you control it. You can turn on and off the heating remotely, and you can set the programming,” he says.

Commenting on the recent report on carbon emissions, Mr McInerney says that 1.4m homes in Ireland need an energy-efficiency upgrade.

He says while the ideal solution is for many homes to undergo costly insulation upgrades, an immediate, low-cost solution is to install a system like Smartzone to help householders reduce energy consumption.

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