Don't underestimate energy efficiency - and add €30,000 to the value of your home

Don't underestimate energy efficiency. A good BER rating can add as much as €30,000 to the value of your home, explains Pinergy's Enda Gunnell

Better insulation will help your home hold or increase its future value.

In much the same way that petrol consumption has long been an accepted factor in calculating the price we pay for a car at the motor-showroom forecourt, research now shows that a home's fuel consumption is fast become a key pricing factor for property here in Ireland - alongside more traditional considerations such as size, condition and proximity to amenities.

Since Building Efficiency Ratings (BERs) became a compulsory requirement for house sales and for homes to rent, the impact of a home's energy consumption on its market value has been increasing to the degree that research now reveals that a good rating can add €30,000 to the value of a €300,000 family house these days.

The ESRI* has determined that a house with a higher-end energy-efficiency rating can today fetch almost 10pc more than a comparable property with a low BER.

What's more, researchers found that a good energy rating has an even stronger effect on a home's value when market sales conditions are worse. Each improvement along the BER scale was associated with a 2pc increase in the sales price compared to a 1.5pc increase when market conditions were not as bad.

So, spending money on energy efficiency will not only insulate your home against loss of heating and keep it warm, but it helps insulate your home's market value in times when conditions are poor for home sales generally.

A Building Energy Rating (BER) is the certificate which states the energy efficiency of a home as rated from G (the poorest) to A1 (the most efficient). It is the calculated energy use for space and hot- water heating, ventilation and lighting based on standard occupancy. A BER is compulsory for all homes offered for sale or rent and is also required before a new home is occupied for the first time.

Pinergy CEO Enda Gunnell

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) notes that the BER is entirely indicative. The actual energy usage is ultimately dependent on the behaviour of the occupants. So even if you own or have recently bought a property with a good BER rating, you can make further savings by modifying your behaviour with regard to energy usage.

Over the last 20 years, our energy demands have increased exponentially as the number of appliances and technology devices - such as laptops, tablets and entertainment systems - have skyrocketed. The average household now wastes 20pc of the electricity used. We leave the lights on in empty rooms; we leave heating on when nobody's home; we boil and reboil full kettles, leave our phones and laptops charging when they have full power. Making basic changes to these habits would see a reduction in energy bills and overall consumption.

Meantime, the energy world has been turned upside down in the last few years. Large utility companies no longer shape the future of energy usage. We, as individuals, do. The technology to make homes more energy-efficient is already available but it is incumbent on energy companies to do more to help bring these new technologies into Irish homes. Providers themselves are also playing a different role. For example, alternative energy providers such as Pinergy actually want our customers to use less of what we are selling.

Smart solutions are available and are being actively used here and in other countries to reduce that energy bill. For example, many homes generate their own solar energy during sunlight hours, store that energy and access it whenever they need it.

In Ireland, it is estimated that around 40,000 homes are already using some form of renewable heat technology. However, the generation of solar energy is still very limited and has capacity to grow significantly with the right incentives. To come anywhere close to reaching Ireland's 2020 energy targets, levels of renewable energy need to increase hugely, particularly in home heating and transport.

So, changing our behaviour at home gives all of us the opportunity to live in a more comfortable and efficient way, while also making a contribution to the national effort to lower our use of energy from fossil fuels.

Some top tips for reducing energy consumption in the home include: • Using LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs. • Fitting dimmer switches, which use less energy and let you enjoy a choice of lighting levels for different tasks. • Setting your dishwasher at 50 degrees Celsius or 'low'. • Washing only full loads using the shortest cycle. • Keeping your dishwasher clean. It will operate more efficiently if you unclog the drain and clean it weekly. • Shutting your fridge door. The refrigerator/freezer uses more electricity than any other appliance in your kitchen so avoid opening the door to browse. Each time you do, cold air escapes and your energy costs increase. • Washing and rinsing your clothes in cold water and using a cold-water detergent. • Setting the water level on your washing machine to match the size of your load. • Adding the right amount of detergent - too many suds make your washing machine work harder. • Filling your clothes dryer but not overloading - clothes will dry faster when they have room to tumble. • Switching your TV off. A television in standby mode uses electricity: half as much as when it is switched on. • Pulling the curtains (you can cut heat loss in half if they have an insulating liner). • Looking out for special offers from providers - for example, our Pinergy Smart package offers the chance to reduce bills even further by availing of our free weekend electricity offer.

* The Value of Domestic Building Energy Efficiency (ESRI Report)

Enda Gunnell is CEO of Pinergy, sponsors of How Much Is Your House Worth? 2017