Heat your home with help from the State
It's never been easier to insulate your home, says Sinead Ryan. Here's how...
As the Autumn evenings begin to draw in (and, let's be honest, did we even get a summer this year?), thoughts turn to the chilly nights and draughty houses.
With wind whistling through creaky windows, the boiler going on the blink or the threat of freezing pipes, you'd be shivering with worry at it all as you wrap yourself in extra blankets to keep warm.
Happily though, it's never been a better time to get your house insulated and new heating put in. But the potential cost of it will put many home owners off even considering it.
This is where the SEAI comes in. Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland is a Government-funded organisation which provides, among other things, generous grants toward insulation and heating works. Although it has been in operation for many years, it's surprising the number of people who have never heard of them, or don't believe they can apply.
In 2015 30,354 works were undertaken in 19,100 homes. The most common measure was roof insulation (27pc), cavity wall installation came second at 22pc, while new high-efficiency boilers were installed in 20pc of cases. Solar panelling accounted for one in 10 grants given.
But the really good news is that the grants are not means-tested; that means everybody can apply for them. If you're considering internal insulation works or getting a new boiler, for instance, it's a no-brainer to get some of the cost covered for you.
While there are some restrictions on some elements (for example, the type of boiler you must install), their purpose is to provide the best quality to ensure the expense is validated. SEAI claims that heating bills can be reduced by up to 20pc just by the installation of an energy-efficient boiler for your house's fuel type, for instance.
There are two types of grant: the Better Energy scheme which is part funded, and the Warmer Homes initiative, where all costs are paid by the State.
John Randles of the SEAI says, "The Better Energy schemes have improved the energy efficiency of almost 300,000 homes through grant aid, directly managing the delivery of improvements to vulnerable energy-poor homes through the Warmer Homes Scheme.
"The works are typically completed by local contractors, keeping money in the local economy. Those contractors are registered by SEAI, meaning they have the necessary qualifications, carry the required insurances and tax certificates, and are subject to quality inspections by SEAI, all of which maximises the value for both homeowner and the State".
You can find a list of qualifying contractors on the SEAI website (seai.ie).
Better Energy Homes Scheme
The grants here are for around a third of the total cost of the works. They include attic and wall insulation, new energy-efficiency boilers and heating controls. They range from €300 for attic insulation up to €4,500 for external wall insulation on a detached house. Grants are dependent on house size and the only other criteria are that you are a home owner and live there, and that it was built prior to 2006. There are additional grants awarded if you're getting three or more works carried out at the same time.
The process is straightforward and if you meet the criteria, acceptance is immediate:
• Apply online or by calling 1850 927 000. The form will ask for your Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN), found on your electricity bill, your bank account details and your chosen contractor.
• See seai.ie/betterenergyhomes for a list of registered contractors to see who is local to you.
• It is your responsibility to find and engage the contractor, agree a price, and a contract of works. Get references, ask family and friends and take all the precautions you would as a private purchaser.
• Get the works done within six months and you will receive the payment upon completion.
• You must get a BER cert when the works are finished; the grant for this is €50, and the overall cost around €150.
Warmer Homes Scheme
This is a fully grant-aided programme where works are carried out completely free of charge. They include all insulation works along with draught proofing, lagging jackets, low energy light bulbs and free energy advice. To qualify, you must:
• Be an owner occupier, with a house built pre-2006. Local authority tenants cannot apply.
• Be in receipt of one of the following social welfare benefits: fuel allowance, job seekers allowance (for at least six months, and with a child under 7), Family Income Supplement, One Parent Family Payment Allowance.
• Works are carried out within six months of approval.
• Again, you simply apply online (seai.ie/warmerhomes) or by phone (freephone 1800 250 204). You will need to supply evidence of what DSP allowance you receive and answer basic questions about your house.
• The wait time to have your application approved is approximately six months at present.