Last week, I spoke about how insulation and installing the right windows can keep your home warm, reducing heat loss. Now that you know how to keep the heat in your home, let’s take a look at reducing the cost of heating. In this article, I’m focusing on upgrading heating systems and the most economical ways to heat your home.
The Green Hub by An Post can help you pinpoint the changes that you can make for more sustainable and affordable living, manage your home upgrade, arrange grants and provide low rate Green Loans.
Before deciding on the changes you’d like to make to your home, it’s good to take a look at the way you currently heat it, which can vary from an open fire, gas fire, stove, wood-burning stove, wood pellets, electric radiators and storage heaters, gas or oil-fired boilers designed to heat radiators or for underfloor heating, or via heat pump, which can be air, water or ground source supplied.
The Green Hub by An Post in partnership with SSE Airtricity can provide you with a free assessment of your home, including how you heat it, to help determine which heating system best suits your needs.
Firstly, let’s look at the open fire. Most people love the look, sound and effect if an open fire, but beware, approximately 80% of the heat from the fire goes straight up the chimney. If you’re still interested in having an open fire in your home, there are a few solutions that can help prevent heat loss.
When the open fire is not in use, it is equivalent to a large hole in the wall, causing significant heat loss. A fire genie, which is a galvanised steel draught excluder that can be opened when you want to light the fire or closed when it’s not in use helps keep the heat in. Although this comes at a cost of a couple of hundred euro, it’s well worth the spend. In any project that I work on where an open fire is retained, this is a given.
Another economical alternative is to install a stove and flue. Options are plentiful here and include gas, solid or multi-fuel. Regardless of your choice, a stove permanently keeps heat in, and more importantly adds a vital source of heat input to the home, with approximately 80% of its heat dispersing into the room.
This can be a reasonable outlay of anything from €3,000 up to €8,000 depending on stove specification and length of the flue. A reasonable investment for an immediate and big payback. The Green Hub by An Post in partnership with SSE Airtricity can help you identify what type of stove works best for your home.
While open fires and stoves can provide your home with heat, these should be secondary sources of heat, complementing and topping up the main source. When it comes to deciding on how to heat your entire home, there are a few options worth considering.
One of the most favourable heating systems I come across on a regular basis is the air to the water heat pump. For people who want to ‘go green,’ this is a great option. It’s a renewable heat source that will transform the comfort level in your home and pay for itself in time.
I describe the pump to my clients as a large outdoor air-conditioning unit you would see on apartment blocks in Spain or Italy. It’s an outdoor unit that has to be located within a certain distance of the house and is linked to the indoor thermal store. This is a great system for a new home or an upgrade. It is suitable for underfloor heating, constantly running at a low temperature, like underfloor heating, but can also be used with low-temperature radiators. If you are upgrading to this in a retrofit situation, your existing radiators will most likely have to be replaced with low-temperature radiators.
However, I am aware of the advancement of the high-temperature heat pump, which is specifically designed with a retrofit in mind, whereby the existing high-temperature radiators can remain in place. I haven’t used this yet but welcome the advancement.
I would budget a sum of €10,000 including radiator change for this install. This is run on electrical supply, so you won’t have any gas or oil bill, however, you may see a slight increase in your electricity bill.
Other heat pumps are geothermal, which is a bit more invasive install and requires boreholes to be drilled in the ground (wells), or lengths of pipes laid just under the earth’s surface. For the latter, you need good garden space. If you are doing a full upgrade and have the external space, this is worth considering.
Warm water is taken from the pipework installed deep in the earth or just under the earth and is circulated up and around to warm the house. This is the most expensive install varying from €15,000 to €20,000. An Post’s low rate Green Home Improvement loan can help you finance these changes, borrow from €5,000 to €75,000 for up to ten years. The SEAI grant available for heat pump systems range from €600-€3,500.
If budget prevents and the above are out of reach, then a quick and easy solution would be to upgrade your boiler to a high energy efficiency A-rated boiler, with an efficiency of around 92%. Also, look at your current radiators. Are they heating up, but not actually giving out any heat? I see this a lot, and a simple review and replacement of your radiators would help considerably. Because this is not a renewable heat source, grants are not available for this work.
The above primary heating source options will also heat your water. There are specific hot water renewables, the main source being solar panels, flat panels, or tubes, installed specifically to heat hot water for domestic use. These are a great source of renewable energy and can be used in conjunction with any of the main heating sources.
I have worked on projects that involve a hybrid of the above, such as a wood-burning stove for the secondary heat source, and a mix of two main heat sources, a heat pump for the underfloor heating or new portion of the house, and an A-rated boiler to work with the high energy radiators in the older part of the house.
Once you have the right advice, it’s easy to find the best way to heat your home. No one size fits all, which is why it’s important to talk to a trusted industry professional to find the right short and long-term solutions for your home. The Green Hub from An Post does just that, through its free home survey, and can also manage the project, help source home energy upgrade grants, and assist with financing.
I hope this guide puts you on the right track to finding the most efficient way to heat your home. A lot of these items are works that can’t and won’t be seen but will add in leaps and bounds to the overall thermal comfort, the U-value, which measures the insulating characteristics of the class, including the heat flow or loss that can occur due to different indoor and outdoor temperatures, Building Energy Rating (BER) and comfort levels of your home. You can’t see it, but you can feel it!
The Green Hub by An Post is a one-stop-shop for your sustainable home energy upgrades. Starting with a free home assessment, conducted in partnership with SSE Airtricity, using the BER energy efficiency tool that shows you the energy upgrade recommendations for your home, as well as end-to-end project and grant management, and low-rate Green Loans. Helping you transform your home, so it’s cosier and cheaper to run.
To learn more about the Green Hub from An Post—visit www.anpost.com/Green-Hub