One in three people can’t afford home energy upgrade, survey

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Caroline O'Doherty

One in three householders surveyed said they could not afford works to improve their home’s energy efficiency even though it would save them money on their energy bills.

The dilemma facing cash-strapped homeowners is revealed in a survey by estate agents Savills Ireland.

It found that where finances were available, householders were keen to put it to use on energy efficiency.

Just under half of those surveyed said they had recently carried out work to improve their home's energy efficiency or planned to in the next year or two.

The remaining one in five said they had no works carried out, planned or considered as it was simply not a priority for them.

Improvements such as insulation, replacement of old oil and gas heating systems with newer models or electric heat pumps and the closing off of open fires have the combined effect of reducing bills and carbon emissions.

The survey found, however, that lowering energy bills was by far the greater driver than climate or environmental concerns.

Some 76pc of householders said cost savings was their main motivation while just 19pc cited environmental concerns.

Environmental concerns featured least among the over-55s and residents of Dublin, and most prominently among young people and those living in Munster and Leinster counties outside of Dublin.

Surprisingly, despite so much discussion around energy usage and prices over the last year, 60pc of those surveyed did not know their BER, the building energy rating that tells how energy efficient their home is.

Of that group, 42pc said they had never had their homes assessed for a BER, 9pc said they thought they could guess what it might be and 9pc did not know what a BER was.

The survey was conducted among just over 1,000 adults a year into the National Retrofitting Scheme which increased grants for home energy efficiency works.

The scheme, administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) also set up ‘one-stop shop’ arrangements to enable householders use one company to coordinate all the physical works and paperwork involved.

While the Government has hailed the initiative a success, Beverly Ensor of Savills New Homes said the survey showed there were still obstacles for many homeowners.

“Any move that makes your home more energy efficient has a multitude of benefits – from lower energy costs to adding to the saleability,” she said.

“Unfortunately, more than a third of homeowners believe they cannot afford to improve the BER of their home.

“The cost of retrofitting a home easily runs into tens of thousands and the high cost of a home energy upgrade is clearly a barrier.

“Perhaps more needs to be done to encourage the take-up of the Government’s home retrofit grants, as well as the availability and accessibility of those grants.”

Almost one in 10 told the survey that lack of access to green finance – low-cost loans for works that aid climate action – was a factor in not being able to carry out improvements.