Monday 14 October 2019

'There are no draughts... The house is much warmer' - Couple who took advantage of SEAI's deep retrofit scheme

Henk Van der Puil and his wife Barbara
Henk Van der Puil and his wife Barbara

Like many homeowners who have taken advantage of the SEAI's Deep Retrofit scheme, Henk Van Der Puil had already decided that his house needed an upgrade.

"It was getting a bit shabby," he says of his 1990s era dormer bungalow on the outskirts of Kilkenny, "and it had always been draughty. So we got an architect in and decided to knock the kitchen and living room area into one and introduced a lot more light into the house. We also set it up for our old age by putting in a bathroom downstairs."

With so much expense and disruption in the pipeline, applying for a grant that would cover 50pc of the energy upgrade costs was a no-brainer.

Henk toyed with the idea of installing external wall insulation but decided in the end to pump the cavity walls with bead insulation.

The initial plan had been to upgrade the attic insulation but because the family had to move out of the house anyway during the work, Henk elected to remove the tiles and install insulation in the rafters. This brought the attic into the thermal envelope of the house and so removed the worry of the water tank freezing in winter.

"Everyone concentrates on insulation," says Henk, "but sealing the envelope of the house is very important. Eliminating draughts has a huge bearing on comfort levels."

Because the house is now much more airtight, the contractor also installed a mechanical ventilation system to deliver fresh, clean air into the house.

The old oil boiler, along with its bulky tank, were taken out and replaced with a heat pump. This technology doesn't reach the high temperature provided by fossil fuel boilers, which is why it is used in conjunction with underfloor heating or high-surface area radiators. Henk opted for the latter.

He admits that were it not for the grant, he would not have installed electricity-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof.

"They're too expensive and the payback period is too long, but when you're getting half of it back, it makes sense," he said.

During the summer, the panels start generating power early in the morning, before it's needed, so that gets diverted first to a battery, then to the hot water tank. Only when the cylinder has reached its target temperature does excess power go back to the grid.

As it stands, Henk is providing that power free of charge, though it is anticipated that the Government will introduce a feed-in tariff for microgenerating homeowners in the coming months.

The works, carried out by 3CEA, brought the house from a D1 BER rating almost to an A1.

"It's marvellous," says Henk. "There are no draughts and that makes a big difference. The house is much warmer - I don't think it got below 18 degrees since we moved back in last August."

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