Making Cents: State grants for renewable energy lead to savings

Consumer advice with Gráinne McGuinness

THE change in the clocks and the resulting long evenings have many of us contemplating paint jobs or other home improvements; sunshine really highlights areas in need of attention. But while redecorating your home may make it look better, other improvements could not only add to its value but also have a positive impact on your wallet for years to come.

Irish consumers have seen a steady increase in energy costs in recent years, regardless of provider. This month alone both Electric Ireland and PrePayPower increased their prices, by 4% and 3.9% respectively. The other main providers in the market have also hiked their rates in the last 18 months.

So any changes you can make to improve the energy efficiency of your home will pay dividends in your bills.

I have written before about the grants available from The Sustainable Energy Authority Of Ireland (SEAI) for home improvement works but the authority has introduced two new grants, introduced last year, that it would like to particularly highlight with homeowners.

The first of these is the Solar Electricity Grant, designed to turn private houses into renewable power stations. The SEAI are now offering a grant for Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity

for homeowners. A domestic solar PV system consists of a number of solar panels mounted to your roof (or in your garden) and connected into the electrical loads within your building. The solar panels generate DC (direct current — like a battery) electricity, which is then converted in an inverter to AC (alternating current — like the electricity in your domestic socket). Any excess electricity produced can be stored in a battery, or other storage solution like your hot water immersion tank.

Solar PV systems are rated in kilowatts (kW) and the SEAI offer €700 rebate per kWp and an additional €1,000 toward the battery storage system. This is available to owners of dwellings built and occupied before 2011.

The SEAI also provide grants type there are keen to promote is for heatpumps, electrical devices which convert energy from the air outside of your home into useful heat, in the same way a fridge extracts heat from its inside. There are a number of different kinds, including Air to Water and Ground Source to Water; the SEAI offers grants of €3,500 toward four different types.

The authority says these pumps can transform the comfort levels in your home, and lead to lower bills and reduced emissions.

It is important to point out upfront that the SEAI grants will not cover anywhere close to the full cost of the work, you will also have to be in a position to add in your own funds or borrow for the work.

For example, heatpumps typically cost between €5,000 and €10,000 so after the grants homeowners will still contibute several thousand euro towards one and would be required to invest similar amounts for a Solar PV systems.

The authority has an online calculator to help you work out the costs and savings of this work so you can calculate how long it will take you to recop what you invest.

For example, with the grant, a typical three-bed semi-detached house would spend about €1,800 on a solar panel system and would save approximately €220 per year on their electricity bills.

So the work is not free but will have long-term benefits, and on more than your energy bills. The BER rating on your home should improve, making it a more attractive prospect if you ever wish to sell. There is also a benefit to the environment in reduced energy usage and and in some cases health benefits.

The SEAI have a number of case studies on their website and in one a woman from Tipperary with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) described the difference significant work on her home made to her health.

“[My GP] is very happy with me,” she said. “Although he doesn’t see me often now.” At her first lung specialist checkup following the home renovations, there was no further deterioration in her lung capacity and this has been hugely positive for her.

Log onto the authority’s website for further details carries all the information on how to apply for these and all their other grants. They also have calculators to work out costs and savings and lists of approved contractors and suppliers. Find out more at www.seai.ie.

If you have limited internet access and prefer to apply by post, you can call 01 808 2100 to have a form posted to you.

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