Making Cents: Time to deep retrofit energy use in your house

The efficient use of energy is one of the core tenets of sustainability as a way of life, and in a recent column I highlighted the Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) grants available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). These are one of the key ways the State has encouraged energy efficiency since the programme launched in 2013.

There has been strong take-up of these grants but there is still much to do.

“It is estimated that one million homes in Ireland still require upgrading to meet modern energy efficiency targets,” said Shane Dempsey, CIF communications director.

“The HRI scheme has proven that measures to incentivise homeowners can work, because there is an increased awareness about energy efficiency and the costs of this on homeowners.”

While availing of these grants involves an initial cost to the homeowner, the end result is not only better for the environment but also the household budget. The SEAI has calculators on its website so users can work out how long it will take to clear the capital cost of home improvements and start reaping the rewards in terms of reduced energy bills.

One of the concerns I am aware of when it comes to taking advantage of these grants available is a fear of not knowing where to start or which jobs to prioritise.

However, there is another scheme which has seen a much lower take-up so far, and which has the potential to help houseowners transform their properties: the Deep Retrofit Pilot scheme.

“Under this pilot scheme, government funding of up to 50% of the total capital and project management costs for homes than achieve an A3 Building Energy Rating (BER) post retrofit,” Mr Dempsey said.

“It is clear that much more needs to be done to promote this deep retrofit scheme to homeowners throughout the country.”

The Deep Retrofit is a big undertaking, and houseowners are looking at a major investment in their properties - the SEAI suggest owners are looking at a possible spend of €30,000 or more. However, the funding available is some of the most comprehensive and generous programme launched to houseowners to date, making it an attractive option for anyone planning major work on their home.

There are a number of criteria to be met. The house must have been built prior to 2007, the BER must be C3 or lower (i.e. D1, D2 etc.) and there must be an element of renewable energy included. At the moment, the grant is not available directly to houseowners, they must apply to the SEAI through an approved company. This extra layer means there is a company overseeing the work, such as House2Home Retrofit Ltd.

Managing director Mark Courtney outlined the benefits.

Historically, homes were encouraged to carry out energy efficiency upgrades in a piecemeal approach, with individual upgrade measures marginally improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

“The Deep Retrofit Programme focuses on the entire home as a unit, ensuring that energy efficiency, comfort and a healthy living environment are achieved by the end of the project.

“A combination of [insulation and renewables], the elimination of fossil fuels and advanced ventilation systems provides a whole house solution for homeowners, while dramatically increasing energy efficiency and decreasing harmful carbon emissions. From a homeowner’s perspective, Deep Retrofit is now affordable and logical if someone is planning a refurbishment project.

“A typical project brings a home from a poor BER rating (C3 or worse) to an A3 or better. Some of our clients have improved their homes from G rated homes to A3 or better. On completion, their homes perform as well as brand new builds which is remarkable.”

To find out more about the Deep Retrofit Programme and the various service providers available, go to www.seai.ie/grants.

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