Make your home more energy efficient
6 MIN READ
Make your home more energy efficient and you can help reduce your fuel bills and your carbon footprint.
Generally speaking, the older your home the lower its BER (Building Energy Rating)*, the more energy it will take to heat it and the bigger your fuel bills.
97% of homes constructed from 2015-19, for example, are A-rated according to this report from the Central Statistics Office*.
While 95% of homes built between 1978 and 1999 were C-rated or below.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland* (SEAI) estimates that heating a 100 square metre, 3-bedroom, semi-d costs €380 in an A-rated home rising to €1,850 in a home with a D rating and costs up to €4,000 in a G-rated home.
On these SEAI figures, increasing your home’s BER rating from a D to an A might reduce your energy bills by 80%.
But what improvements should you prioritise to save energy at home and raise your home’s BER to an A?
1 Insulation: hold onto the heat you’re already paying for
Increasing your home’s BER rating will take more than buying energy-saving bulbs although that’s a good start.
The SEAI estimates that a poorly-insulated attic can lose up to 30% of the heat you’ve paid for.
And between 20 and 30% of heat can be lost through the walls of your home.
That’s a lot of expensive energy escaping out into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.
Insulating your home properly stops heat escaping so that it takes less energy to warm it.
You can then either turn down the thermostat while still staying warm or use the heating for less time.
Either way, a well-insulated home should mean lower fuel bills for you.
And it’ll mean you’re playing your part in making Ireland more sustainable for everyone and less reliant on fossil fuels.
The current standard for attic insulation is 300mm of rockwool or similar.
Rockwool or mineral wool is created by heating rock or stone until it is molten then spinning it so that it forms a kind of ‘rock candyfloss’ while the fibres of fibre glass are created using spun molten glass.
Even if you already have insulation it is worth checking that it’s thick enough.
The SEAI estimate that it will cost between €700 and €1,000 (not including their grant – see below) to upgrade to 300mm insulation for a 150 square metre, 4-bedroom, detached house with an annual heating bill of €1,600.
They also estimate that the upgrade will save €250 a year off the heating bill.
There is a grant of €400 available* for attic insulation from the SEAI.
So as with all the ways to make your home more energy efficient, you’ll need to add up the cost of the improvements and estimate the projected energy savings to work out how long it will take to make your money back.
When you’ve worked it out then you can talk it through and decide if it makes financial sense.
Cavity wall insulation
If your external walls are built of two layers of brick or blocks with space between the rows then cavity wall insulation can be injected into the space (the cavity) from outside, filling it and providing greater insulation.
The SEAI estimate that it will cost between €700 and €1,000 (not including the grant) to have cavity wall insulation injected into the external walls of the same size house described above (4-bed, 150 square metre detached house).
They estimate that cost savings of €300 a year can be made off the heating bill and there is a grant of €400 available for this kind of work.
Internal wall insulation
If your walls do not have a cavity then you can choose to apply internal or external wall insulation to them.
Typically, this insulation is several times more expensive than cavity wall insulation.
Internal insulation (called dry-lining) usually involves fixing insulation board to the inside of your external-facing walls and external insulation usually means adding a layer of tiles made of expanded polystyrene or rockwool to the outside of your home.
Installing internal insulation will mean you’ll have to remove any fixtures like cupboards, built-in units and wardrobes on walls to fit the insulation board to the inside of the walls.
And you will lose some of the space inside your home because of the extra layer of board on the walls.
External wall insulation
External insulation is the most expensive option and might require planning permission (best speak to your local authority).
But it can be the most effective way to make your home more energy efficient.
The cost of both internal and external insulation depends on many factors including the design and age of your home but grants exist to help with both types of work.
For internal insulation, grants range from €1,600 for an apartment or mid-terrace to €2,400 for a detached home.
For external insulation, they range from €2,750 to €6,000.
You can find more detail on the grants available for all types of insulation work from SEAI*
2 Heating controls: get smart about when and where you heat your home
Rethinking how we use the energy we consume can make our homes more energy-efficient.
The SEAI estimate that you can reduce your energy usage (and therefore your fuel bills) by 20% by upgrading your heating controls.
Many Irish homes have just one heating zone.
That means that the heating is either on or off.
It also means you’ve one temperature for every room in your home and you’re heating the hot water when the heating is on whether you need it or not.
More sophisticated heating controls with 7-day timers mean you can set more heating zones.
This means that you can control room heating individually and heat your hot water separately depending on your needs.
Enabling you, for example, to set the upstairs heating (heat rises, after all) a degree or two cooler than the heating downstairs.
You might also want to invest in a smart thermostat to intelligently control your heating and enable you to control your home energy remotely via an app.
Smart thermostats often allow you to get feedback on your energy usage.
You can then see which of your appliances are using the most energy.
Grants of up to €700 are available from SEAI for installing heating controls*.
3 Solar electricity panels: Invest to make the most of Irish sunlight
While we don’t get as many sunlight as places elsewhere in Europe – Cyprus enjoys a whopping 3,314 hours a year – Ireland does get, on average 1,453 hours of sunshine which can be converted into electricity using solar panels and used to power your TV, fridge, washing machine – anything electric, basically.
SEAI estimates that a solar PV (photovoltaic) system can save a household €200 to €300 a year off the electricity bill.
And according to research quoted by them: ‘80% of the electricity produced by a 2kW (kilowatt) solar PV system (6-7 solar panels) would be used within the average Irish home.’
Of course, most electricity will be generated during the middle of the day which might not be a time when you need it most.
Excess solar electricity can be stored in a battery and there are now plans to pay homeowners who export solar energy to the grid, in future.
Installing solar PV panels
In general, if your solar panels take up less than half the total area of your roof – the size of a 6-panel system – then you may not need planning permission (but it is always best to check with your local authority).
The SEAI offers rebates of €700/kWp for your solar PV panels* installed by a registered installer and €1,000 for a battery storage system for systems over 2kWp.
KWp, by the way, means the peak amount of power generated by your solar PV panels.
All work must be done by a registered SEAI solar PV company and rebates are available if your home was built and occupied before 2011.
The cost of the panels may be between €4,000 to €6,000, it depends on how much energy you need for your home.
Carrying out insulation work first and installing heating controls which reduce your overall energy consumption will reduce the number of solar PV panels your home needs.
4 Solar water heating: Solar energy might cut your hot water bill in half
As well as capturing sunlight for energy, you can use the sun’s energy to heat water directly via flat panels or tubes (called evacuated tubes) typically installed on your roof.
Thermal solar hot water systems, as they are called, is a bit of a mouthful but they are designed to supply 50-60% of the hot water you use in a year.
The upfront cost of these systems is estimated by SEAI at between €800 and €1,300 a square metre and a typical home may need between 8 and 12 square metres of solar panels or tubes to collect the sun’s energy.
The grant available for thermal solar water* heating is €1,200.
All work must be done by a registered SEAI contractor and the solar water heating grant is only available if your home was built and occupied before 2011.
Again, installing heating controls first can reduce the amount of unused hot water your home heats and therefore the square metres of solar panels or tubes you need.
5 Heat pumps: capturing heat from the air, ground or water
If your home is already well insulated and glazed and has low heat loss then a heat pump might help you to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels for heating.
Heat pumps work by drawing heat energy from the air, ground or water and converting it to heat you can use to heat your home and hot water.
The most common systems extract heat from external air using external units which look a bit like external air conditioning units but do the opposite.
Before you apply for a heat pump grant, the SEAI requires you to engage with an SEAI-registered technical advisor who will carry out a technical assessment of your home.
Grants are available for a range of heat pump systems*.
If you are considering upgrading your home to a BER A-rating by installing several or all of the 5 improvements mentioned above you might want to think about applying for a Deep Retrofit grant.
A Deep Retrofit means getting wall, roof, and floor insulation and window upgrades to retain heat.
Next it means installing an efficient renewable heating system, like a heat pump, to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels.
You will also need to introduce some form of mechanical ventilation to make sure you have good indoor air quality.
And you might want to install solar water heating panels and solar PV panels.
You can find out more about a Deep Retrofit here*.
Investing upfront to make energy savings
Of course, the grants mentioned above, while welcome, won’t cover the full cost of your upgrades and they are not paid upfront.
You’ll need to invest to create your green home before you can save on your energy bills and reduce your household budget.
That’s where Bank of Ireland can help.
The types of energy-efficient home improvements mentioned here would qualify for the Green home improvement loan*** (you will need to provide proof of the home improvement work being undertaken).
You might want to check your credit rating before applying – here’s how to check your credit profile and improve it.
Find out more
Find out more about our Green home improvement loan*** (amounts from €2,000 to €65,000) which is available to homeowners wanting to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and offers a discount on our current rates.
Get more details on our Green Mortgage fixed interest rate** which is available if you borrow to buy or build a home with a BER rating of A3 or better or if you buy a home intending to upgrade it to a BER rating of A3 or better.
The Green Mortgage fixed interest rate** is also available if you top up an existing Bank of Ireland mortgage to upgrade your home to a BER rating of A3 or better.
Borrowers can receive a discount of 0.2% off any of our fixed interest rate options (from 1 to 10 years) where a fixed term is selected at drawdown of the mortgage.
For more about choosing a fixed rate mortgage, see Take control with a fixed rate mortgage.
*Clicking on this link brings you to a third-party website. Bank of Ireland is not responsible for content on this website.
**The lender is Bank of Ireland Mortgages. Lending criteria and terms and conditions apply. A typical mortgage to buy your home of €100,000 over 20 years with 240 monthly instalments costs €615.79 per month at 4.2% variable (Annual Percentage Rate of Charge (APRC) 4.3%). APRC includes €150 valuation fee and mortgage charge of €175 paid to the Property Registration Authority. The total amount you pay is €148,114.60. We require property and life insurance. You mortgage your home to secure the loan. Maximum loan is generally 3.5 times gross annual income and 80% of the property value (90% of the property value for first-time buyers). A 1% interest rate rise would increase monthly repayments by €54.02 per month. The cost of your monthly repayments may increase – if you do not keep up your repayments you may lose your home. Available to over 18s only. Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank is not responsible for information on third party websites.
Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank trading as Bank of Ireland Mortgages is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
***Over 18s only and not suitable for students. Only available over the phone. Only available to customers undertaking energy efficiency work on their home. Proof of work being undertaken will be required. The repayments on a Green home improvement loan of €20,000 over 5 years are €389.15 per month based on a variable rate of 6.5% APR. The total cost of credit is €3,349.00.
Variable rates are correct as at 17th July 2019 and are subject to change.