1. Do your homework. If getting insulation pumped into the walls, it could take a couple of weeks before you notice any difference – and by that stage, you will have paid for the job. Unless you're an insulation expert – or you stand over the back of the contractor while he is doing the job, you have no real way of knowing what he's pumping into your walls. It's important therefore to choose a contractor who is registered with the SEAI. If you have a trusted local builder who is not registered, ask him to become registered as it is free to do so. Before giving a contractor the go ahead, ask him what materials are used. Ensure the materials have been approved and tested by a national authority, such as the National Standards Authority of Ireland.
2. If considering solar panels, check where they are made – even if the company which fits them is Irish. For example, solar panels manufactured in China can work out cheaper than the Thermomax panels made in Ireland. However, some Chinese solar panels are not that reliable. It's worthwhile getting the opinion of a BER assessor (who is also registered with the SEAI) about the quality of the systems you are considering for your home.
3. Avoid companies that offer a warranty of less than five years with solar heating – the SEAI's guidelines state that contractors must provide a warranty of at least five years for parts and labour.
4. Get a least three quotes before you decide who to use.
5. You must get SEAI grant approval before beginning any work – or buying any materials for the job.
6. Once you get grant approval, you must get all the work done – and send all relevant paperwork to the SEAI within six months.
7. The work carried out must meet SEAI's standards to qualify for a grant. You may therefore have to spend more than you intended. For example, the size of your home and the number of people living in it will determine the number of solar panels you must get. Usually, the more panels, the more expensive the job. Your choice of manufacturer could also have a bearing on the cost. If the manufacturer's solar panels are less efficient than another manufacturer's, you may have to get more panels than had you gone with the efficient manufacturer.
8. Don't ignore the SEAI's requirements. Otherwise you run the risk of getting your grant turned down. You must be the owner of the property to qualify for a grant. So if you're doing up your parent's home or a property you're renting, you won't be eligible for a grant. Your home must have been built before 2006.
9. Make sure you have enough money to cover the grant until it comes through. You won't get your grant until the work is done and paid for – and after the SEAI has received all necessary documents.
10. Contact your local tax office to see if the work qualifies for tax relief under the government's new home renovation scheme. If it does, you could get 13.5 per cent back in tax relief.