Newly renovated houses will be kinder on the climate, on wallets and on homeowners
Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30
One of the biggest challenges in tackling climate change is reducing the amount of energy we consume.
It's not so much about turning off the lights, or unplugging the TV instead of leaving it on standby or even making sure we don't leave the immersion heater on overnight, although all these things help.
Where you get the real savings from the 'average' house is by making it as efficient as possible. That means having an effective and well-maintained boiler or heating system, insulating walls and the attic, using long-life and LED lightbulbs and having, at the very least, double-glazed windows.
Building regulations in place today mean that new homes are built to a far higher standard and use less energy than ones built even a decade ago.
The problem for Ireland is that so much of our housing stock is old, inefficient and costly to heat and power.
By law, all homes offered for sale must have a Building Energy Rating, which sets out how efficient it is. 'A' is the best-performing, with the scale dropping to 'G'.
To date, around 680,000 ratings have been completed, and they set out the challenge. More than 90pc of homes rated 'A' were built post-2010. Almost 80pc of dwellings rated as 'F' or 'G' were built before 1978.
Given that around half of our housing stock was constructed before 1980, it means there's an enormous job of work to do making these properties as efficient as possible.
There has been a lot of success in this area. At least 340,000 homes have undergone upgrades or been retrofitted, aided by Government grants administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). But most of these works have been 'shallow' retrofits - changing the boiler or installing insulation, for example. While these improvements provide enormous benefits, making homes warmer, more comfortable and cheaper to heat, for older properties even more works are required.
The problem is they cost a lot of money. With the best will in the world, a lot of people simply won't have the money, even with grant aid to foot the bill. Which is where credit unions, private firms and the energy companies come into play.
The pilot schemes being tested by the SEAI could help provide a way for those willing homeowners to invest in their homes, and repay the cost over time.
Firms like the EPS Group in Cork have shown real leadership in this regard, and their employees will reap the benefits. Not only will their homes use 30pc less energy than today, but those financial savings can also be used to spend in the wider economy, boosting growth.
It's a win all round - for the climate, for people's comfort and for household budgets. There's nothing not to like. Getting the right system in place, allowing as many upgrades as possible, will leave everyone better off.